SPENDING on temporary doctors and nurses in county hospitals is falling, but is still running at more than a million pounds a month.

Wherever possible NHS bosses try to use their own medical and nursing staff on the wards because it is cheaper, but sometimes they are forced to turn to more expensive agencies to fill hospital shifts.

Locums, or replacement doctors, amount for half the cost of the expensive medical agency staff.

Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust tries to use its own staff to work extra shifts instead of relying on agencies.

In September, the trust spent £1.234 million on temporary staff – medical and nursing – the lowest figure recorded so far for the 2012/13 financial year.

The trust spent £5.4 million on total medical staff and £7.1 million on total nursing staff in September – figures which include temporary staff and the trust’s own workers.

The high levels of spending on temporary staff are to help the trust hit important stroke and emergency waiting time targets.

The figure was as high as £1.496 million for temporary staff in July, but bosses hope new appointments will reduce reliance on these temporary staff and help save cash.

Mark Wake, the trust’s chief medical officer, said agencies and locums were used to fill medical positions at middle grade or training grade positions.

He said the trend was partly linked to the number of vacancies, but said there was a national problem filling certain posts in specialist areas like critical care and difficulty filling rotas because of the European working time directive.

“The policy is we would go to locums where possible, internally – with the trust’s own staff – where practical and to agencies where necessary.

“The costs are stable, but significant. It is a problem common to many trusts and seems to be a particular issue the further you are from university, teaching and training centres.”