Ministers urged to force doctors trained at taxpayers' expense to work in NHS

Ministers should consider obliging doctors trained at taxpayers' expense to work in the NHS for a set period of time, MPs on the influential House of Commons public accounts committee have suggested.

Westminster: MPs warning over NHS finances (Photo: Robin Hammond)

In a report that warns of a deepening financial crisis in the NHS, MPs hit out at senior doctors trained with public funding who then look to maximise their pay by working part time for the NHS via agencies.

MPs warn that in 2013/14 the NHS spent £26bn on temporary staff, compared with £2.1bn in 2012/13.

Last year, health minister Lord Howe suggested the NHS could place military-style restrictions on GP trainees to prevent them working outside the NHS as soon as they qualified.

Speaking on the BBC's Today programme, committee chairwoman Margaret Hodge echoed this, pointing out that it cost £400,000 to train a consultant, and that the government should consider obliging them to work in the NHS just as the military would expect a fixed term of service in return for training.

Obligations on doctors

The accounts committee report says the government should 'examine the obligations it places on consultants who are trained at taxpayers’ expense and then choose to work as temporary staff at extra cost to the NHS'.

It cites claims that some consultants trained by the NHS are being hired back to the service at a cost of £1,760 a day.

The accounts committee highlights a deepening NHS financial crisis, warning that a combined surplus of more than £2bn across all NHS organisations for 2012/13 had fallen to £722m by 2013/14, while the proportion of trusts in deficit rose from 10% to 26%. It cited Monitor statistics that show 80% of foundation hospital trusts were in deficit by the second quarter of 2014/15.

NHS organisations need to make radical changes to the way they provide services, but the changes require 'upfront investment', the report warn, and this is becoming less feasible as more organisations slip into deficit.

The report calls for greater collaboration between NHS and other public sector organisations, and demands an overhaul of NHS funding mechanisms to incentivise joint working.

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