Newspaper for Crossmaglen, South Armagh, Newry and Down.

Health Trusts avoid confirming claims of inflated on-call rates

Both the Belfast Trust and the Southern Trust have avoided confirming if allegations of inflated -on-call pay rates have been offered to senior consultants in Belfast to cover the Daisy Hill A&E unit.

According to an Irish News report published last week, senior consultants in Belfast have been offered pay rates of at least £1,500 per night to stay in the Canal Court Hotel in Newry on-call for the beleaguered Daisy Hill Emergency Department.

It is claimed that senior doctors in Belfast have been approached informally with offers as high as £1,800 in an effort to address the much publicised staffing crisis at the local A&E Department.   Doctors would still receive the huge fee even if they were not called into work.

The Examiner understands the offer has not been taken up by any of the consultants approached “due to safety concerns and the embarrassment of working alongside nurses earning far less.”

Locum rates for A&E doctors usually start at £115 per hour for overnight cover.

Last month, the Southern Trust confirmed that the future of Daisy Hill’s Emergency Department had been secured for at least the next 15 months, after a a regional summit involving the four other health trusts agreed on a regional rota to cover Daisy Hill – which was on the brink of temporary closure due to a lack of senior medical staff available to cover night shifts.

The decision came after ongoing pressure over the future of the facility prompted public outcry and a slew of protest rallies and public meetings demanding the retention of round-the-clock services.

It was widely assumed the regional solution to the staffing crisis would not involve inflated pay rates.

The Department of Health has confirmed that “Terms and conditions” for A&E consultants willing to be placed on the rota for Daisy Hill formed part of the discussions at the regional summit but it said pay rates have not been finalised.

A spokesperson for the Department told the Irish News:

“It would be disappointing if the potential need for a regional rota resulted in the Southern Trust finding itself in the position of having no alternative but to pay what many would regard as an unreasonable rate, in order to maintain the service.”

The department added that the £1,500 on-call rate claim was a matter for the trust to respond to.

When contacted by The Examiner to answer the allegations, a Southern Trust representative told us,

“In the context of continuing difficulties with the recruitment and retention of consultant medical staff at the Daisy Hill Emergency Department, the Emergency Department continues to be supported by locum doctors paid at existing locum rates.

“The total Medical Agency and Locum spend for financial year 2016/17 for Daisy Hill Hospital Emergency Department was £2.83 million and £1.08m million for financial year 2015/16.”

After initially advising that the decision of any financial recompense did not lie with them, a Belfast Trust spokesperson said,

‘Some of our consultants have expressed a willingness to participate with other consultant colleagues throughout the Region in assisting Southern Trust to maintain consultant on-call provision for Daisy Hill’s ED. Belfast Trust understands that no formal remuneration has been agreed.