Scottish psychiatrists respond to locum workforce story

Press release, Scotland news
15 April 2024

A report in one of Scotland’s tabloid newspapers has revealed the NHS spent nearly £30 million on locum psychiatrists in a year.

Figures obtained by freedom of information requests show that Scotland's 14 health boards spent £29,606,336.61 on locum psychiatrists in 2022/23.

This was up nearly £10 million - a whole 50 per cent - from just three years previously. The spend in the 2019/2020 financial year was £19,868,166.

It comes after the Daily Record reported earlier this month that one Scottish health board had spent £1.2m in a year on just two locum psychiatrists.

The Royal College of Psychiatrists in Scotland said using agency locums for "the gaping wounds in NHS" is "a massively expensive patch up job that doesn’t fix the problem."

Commenting, Dr Jim Crabb, policy lead at RCPsych in Scotland, said:

“We want to ensure that all consultant psychiatrists whether they are locum or not should meet the high standards of training set by the College.

“But to fix our broken mental health system, we need properly trained and qualified consultant psychiatrists who can teach and train junior staff.

“These clinicians need to be prepared to lead and develop the teams they work in and ensure safety standards are maintained. Some NHS locums do teach and are valuable to our services, but agency locums by definition – do not do any of these things.

“They simply plug a short-term gap in our services and cost many, many times more than permanent doctors to employ.

“Using agency locums to patch up the gaping wounds in NHS is like using a sticking plaster made out of gold. It’s a massively expensive patch-up job that doesn’t fix the problem.

“We need a proper grown-up strategy to ensure there are enough permanent consultant psychiatrists for the NHS in Scotland for the benefit of our mental health services as well as for the patients we treat.”

Recently the College in Scotland published its own State of the Nation report - an in-depth look at workforce and retention issues. 

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