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Travel and accommodation costs for locums ‘extortionate’

IJB vice chairman Allison Duncan.
Southend councillor Allison Duncan said safety should always be the top priority. Photo: Shetland News

THE VICE-CHAIRMAN of Shetland’s health and social care partnership says representation should be made to the Scottish Government about the “extortionate” cost of providing travel and accommodation for locum staff.

Councillor Allison Duncan said the issue is compounding budget worries for NHS Shetland, which needs to find almost £10 million savings over the next five years.

NHS Shetland board members were told earlier this week that the health board is set to spend £1.7 million on temporary employees this financial year as it continues to struggle to recruit permanent staff.

At a meeting of Shetland’s Integration Joint Board on Thursday, Duncan said an “enormous amount of money” could be saved if more help was offered in providing travel and accommodation for temporary staff.

“When I read the report of locums coming to Shetland and the high cost it takes for fares with now a single airline, and fares increasing, and accommodation costs here in Shetland, I realised that this is an extortionate amount of money that’s costing the IJB from the health board and the council sides respectively,” he said after the meeting.

“I asked if there’s a possibility that evidence could be brought forward and taken to the Scottish Government.”

Duncan said for example if Perth sourced a locum from Edinburgh then only mileage costs would have to be factored in.

However, he said the work currently being undertaken by NHS Shetland in recruitment – including attending events in England to encourage people to think about moving north – is “essential” in solving the problem.

During the meeting, chief officer Simon Bokor-Ingram said he understood Duncan’s concerns and said it was “absolutely right” to highlight the issue.

He suggested, however, that it would be wise to continue maintaining a focus on the issue of recruiting instead of travel and accommodation costs.

Primary care service manager Lisa Watt said that five people recently expressed an interest in NHS Shetland’s six vacant GP jobs.

NHS Shetland chief executive Ralph Roberts added that the health board is due to meet with Scottish Government officials on 8 March.

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