Northern Ireland

Belfast Health Trust: Doctors paid £3m in overtime

Doctors in surgery Image copyright Science Photo Library
Image caption One consultant in the Belfast Trust has received more than £150,000 in overtime

The Belfast Health Trust paid almost £3m to consultants in overtime for extra work last year, it has revealed.

One Belfast Health Trust consultant received £100,000 in overtime.

The figures were released in response to a Freedom of Information request from the BBC.

An investigation in July into overtime payments to consultants for extra work showed an upwards trend across the UK, with an NI hospital among the top five in the UK paying consultants overtime.

New figures from the Belfast Trust show they paid £2.7m in overtime to consultants last year. In 2014 the figure was £2.9m.

One consultant in the Belfast Trust - the largest of Northern Ireland's five healthcare trusts - was paid £103,000 for some 800 hours overtime.

Another received £93,000 for 700 hours of extra work.

In a statement, the Belfast Trust said it regretted that demand for a number of services outstripped the capacity that was available.

A spokesperson for the trust said among the initiatives to reduce waiting lists and ensure it sees patients as quickly as possible was to pay overtime to some consultants to take weekend and evening clinics.

Figures over the last three years show the amount paid to the private sector has gone down from £37m in 2013-14 to £21m 2015-2016.

National figures up

At Lancashire Teaching Hospitals, an unnamed consultant received just under £375,000 in overtime while at East Kent Hospitals, a consultant earned £205,408.

Nationally, spending on overtime is up a third - to £167.8m spent in 2015-16.

Locally, hospitals in Northern Ireland have increased their spending over the past three years, from almost £3.5m to £3.9m.

In 2015-16, the Western Health and Social Care Trust spent £607,454 in overtime payments.

Earlier figures for the South Eastern Trust show £488,056 was spent, while the bill for the Northern Health Trust was £277,000.

Image copyright Thinkstock
Image caption Hospitals must negotiate their own rates for overtime payments

While it is up to hospitals to negotiate their own rates for extra work, last month's investigation revealed the most lucrative rates across the UK were often for routine knee and hip operations.

Payments for extra shifts or overtime are often negotiated locally in individual hospitals.

Nationally last year, 23 NHS trusts had to pay at least one consultant more than £100,000 for extra work, with another 39 paying at least one consultant more than £350,000.

Figures released to the BBC revealed that consultants doing overtime in these specialist areas commonly make £600 for a four-hour shift - up to three times what they normally make.

According to The British Medical Association (BMA), the overtime payments issue is to do with a shortage of doctors.

"The fact is, the NHS is only paying overtime on this scale because it does not have enough doctors to do the work," said the BMA.

More on this story