Consultant cover costs £20m in Lincolnshire hospitals

A shortage of hospital consultants has left a health trust in Lincolnshire paying £20m for emergency cover.

The United Lincolnshire Hospitals Trust faced the bill for filling its vacant consultant posts over the past financial year.

The trust had an overspend of £14m in its £384m budget for the past year.

It has 22 consultancy vacancies, but five new consultants have been recruited while another six positions were being advertised, the trust said.

'Considerable' impact

Roswyn Hakesley-Brown from the Patients' Association said it was a problem that needed to be addressed quickly.

"They are already in deficit in relation to their existing budget... money is going to be reduced in terms of front-line services to patients and the impact on patients could be considerable."

A trust statement said: "Over the past 12 months we have actively engaged with international recruitment initiatives to help recruit to our hard-to-fill posts, including those in A&E, paediatrics, haematology and emergency medicine.

"We have significantly reduced the number of consultant vacancies in our hospitals over the past few months, and are continuing to recruit to consultant posts in the coming months."

Dr Mark Porter, chairman of the British Medical Association's consultants committee, said the current shortage of hospital consultants was probably "a blip" and should resolve itself.

"From time to time you are going to get an occasional mismatch … but that will probably resolve itself in a short while … just by the swings and roundabouts of the way that planning for workforce graduates goes."

Unison representative David Kirwan said the main problem facing the trust was that it cannot attract enough consultant candidates because of budget constraints.

The trust has three main hospital sites in Grantham, Lincoln and Boston.

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