More than 3,500 doctors shifts were left uncovered at BHRUT's A&E last year
PUBLISHED: 07:00 04 September 2018
The amount of doctors shifts that were left uncovered in BHRUT's accident and emergency departments has doubled in the last year, research has revealed.
A Freedom of Information (FOI) request submitted by BBC London, revealed that in the last financial year to February 1 this year, 3540 shifts were unfilled.
Overall the FOI showed that at least 8,000 doctors shifts were left uncovered - however BHRUT were the only one of the biggest hospitals in London to respond to the FOI.
Others including Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust, King’s College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, Kingston Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust, St George’s Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust and Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust all failed to respond.
At BHRUT in 2016-17 - during the same time frame - 1,739 shifts were left unfilled - an increase of 1,801 - which has meant the amount of unfilled shifts has doubled in the last 12 months.
In total there were 13,092 shifts at BHRUT last year, 3953 of these were taken up by bank staff, 5599 were covered by agency staff and the rest were left unfilled.
The FOI also revealed that last year the trust spent more than £26m on bank and agency staff.
Bank staff are temporary workers who are used to meet the fluctuating staffing needs caused by staff illness, or increased patient demand.
They are taken from the NHS staff bank at BHRUT, which is an entity managed by a trust, or through a third party organisation who contracts with healthcare professionals to take on shifts at trust hospitals.
Agency staff are those employed via an agency to cover a shift.
Agency staff are more expensive to employ than bank staff.
Shelagh Smith, Chief Operating Officer, Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals NHS Trust said: “As the figures show, we have nearly doubled the amount of medical shifts across our Trust. This has included introducing even more overnight consultant cover.
“In recent months we have been achieving a fill-rate of more than eight in 10 shifts.
“We review every shift by monitoring the situation on a daily and weekly basis to ensure that as many as possible are filled by our staff, or bank or agency staff if required.
“Our top priority is patient safety and we believe that we run a safe emergency department.
“We have made four permanent consultant appointments this year, and it was very encouraging to recently receive positive feedback from the GMC about our training and support, so we have increased our allocation of junior doctors too.
“We are trying to be innovative and creative in how we tackle the challenge.
“We’ve run some successful recent and current campaigns and initiatives, to recruit and retain staff (particularly nurses), which we’ll be rolling out to medical staff.
“We were pleased that the CQC reported earlier this year that ‘Significant efforts were being made to improve recruitment and retention including retention of locum doctors, which had shown some success.”
Redbridge health campaigner, Andy Walker said: “It is a disgrace that one of the wealthiest cities in the world cannot staff its hospitals properly.
“It is another disgrace that bhrut are planning to close King George A&E, this madness has to be a driver for A&E doctors not wanting to work at BHRUT.
“Let’s hope BHRUT see sense and announce they will review the A&E closure plan this Wednesday at their board meeting.”