Hospitals 'paying locum doctors for extra hours to bypass wages cap'

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Hospitals are paying locum doctors for hours they have not worked to bypass a Government cap on agency staff pay, it has been reported. 

Some doctors are claiming for extra hours - including those spent travelling - to overcome limits imposed on agency staff pay, Cliff Mann, president of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, told The Times. 

In January, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt announced he was further lowering the cap on agency staff, with a ban on agencies that refuse to supply any workers at the shift rate cap. 

But Dr Mann told The Times that doctors are refusing to do locum shifts for lower rates and hospitals are resorting to claiming they worked longer hours to pay them more.

He said: "You might be only working a 10-hour shift but you claim six hours' travelling either side of that, so you are paid for 16. It's one of the ways some of the peripheral units can overcome what's happening.

"Sooner or later someone is going to stand up and say: 'This is misappropriation and can't be countenanced.'"

Regulator NHS Improvement said caps on agency staff pay had been "welcomed" by trusts. 

A spokesman said: "Paying staff for hours they've not worked is unacceptable.

"It goes against the feedback we've had from trusts which overwhelmingly suggests these measures are welcomed as a way of getting back control over their spending on agency staff.

"If there are genuine fears that safety could be affected, trusts should use the override mechanism, which is specifically designed to protect patients.

"The NHS simply cannot afford to keep paying huge sums to rip-off agencies. We want to support staff who have been working for agencies to come back into the NHS."