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HCL Thames Medics, the National Framework agency for recruitment of doctors to the National Health Service (NHS), and part of HCL Plc, says that greater use of flexible and locum doctors is vital for dealing with the pressures on frontline staffing brought about by new EU rules, which put a cap on junior doctors' working hours.
HCL Thames Medics has responded to research by the Royal College of Physicians which said that some hospital doctors now have to care for up to 400 patients at night because of the impact of the European Working Time Directive, which cut junior doctors' working hours to 48 per week. This has had to a dramatic impact on staffing levels in hospital wards.
The suggested solution for Medical Staffing Officers is to increase the proportion of locum doctors in their frontline staff, thus creating a flexible workforce which could be staffed up and down quickly to meet fluctuating demand, the company said.
Kirsten Simcoe, Managing Director of HCL Thames Medics, said that this would be more cost effective than increasing permanent recruitment of doctors as locums are only paid for the hours that they work so would not incur added hidden costs such as holiday and pension entitlement.
Simcoe explained "with tougher times ahead for the public sector, the challenge is maintaining doctors' staffing levels in a cost efficient manner. The need to do this is especially acute given the impact of the European Working Time Directive on junior doctors. More and more of our NHS clients are increasing the use of locum doctors in their workforce as this is a flexible and cost effective alternative to a frontline made up entirely of doctors permanently employed by the public sector."
She concluded "such a low doctors to patient ratio as suggested in the report is worrying, and clearly unacceptable for both patients and medical staff. The solution is to create and maintain a flexible doctors workforce, to deliver the best possible care for patients at a cost that is acceptable to the NHS and the taxpayer."
To read a summary of the findings by the Royal College of Physicians please click here