Increasing use of locum doctors in NHS Accident & Emergency units is “worrying” and could endanger patients, warn medical negligence solicitors Coles Miller.
High use of locum doctors by a hospital or GP surgery is one of the warning signs that clinical negligence lawyers watch for when they investigate cases.
There has been a 60 per cent increase in spending on locum doctors in NHS A&E units over the last three years.
Data obtained by Labour under the Freedom of Information Act showed the NHS spent £83.3 million on locums for A&E last year compared with £52 million in 2009/10.
The report was based on data from 108 trusts which collectively represent three quarters of those that operate an A&E service.
Data shows that around 10 per cent of consultant shifts and one in six junior doctor shifts are now covered by locums.
Coles Miller Partner David Simpson, who leads the firm’s clinical negligence team, said rising use of locums in the NHS was a significant cause for concern.
“Locums may be less qualified. They may not know the hospital very well, they may not know its particular skill sets. They will not have a relationship with the specialists,” he said.
Use of locums in GP surgeries meant that “you are getting someone who is less familiar with the history of the patient. You are not getting continuity of care.
“Medical notes are no substitute for someone who has been with that patient for a length of time and has got to know them,” he added.
His team commonly sees references to locums in medical records when it handles compensation claims.
Official NHS guidance stipulates that long-term locums should be employed “with the same care as a substantive appointment”.
Locums must be “properly qualified and experienced for the work they will be required to undertake,” according to the guidelines.
But Mr Simpson fears there is no guarantee that overburdened NHS trusts are adhering to the guidelines.
Coles Miller helps clients from all over the country with medical negligence and personal injury claims.
The Dorset-based solicitors have five offices in Poole, Bournemouth, Broadstone, Charminster and Wimborne.
They have a 99 per cent success rate with clinical negligence claims. Over the years the lawyers have helped clients to recover millions of pounds in compensation to fund the treatment and care they need following medical errors.
Coles Miller handles a wide range of claims including delayed or incorrect diagnosis, errors in operations (including cosmetic surgery), neurological injuries and laser burns.
They also assist clients to claim compensation for mis-prescriptions, allergies and the failure to obtain informed consent to medical treatment.
Most of the claims are carried out on a ‘no win no fee’ basis following a free ‘no obligation’ initial meeting.
For further details about making a claim for medical negligence, please contact Coles Miller Solicitors Partner David Simpson, 01202 338889.