Western Trust targets overseas doctors as locum costs soar

The Western Trust
Image caption The Western Trust recruitment drive targets Spain, Holland, Greece and Poland

A Northern Ireland Health trust is targeting medical professionals from abroad as it struggles to cope with a shortage of qualified staff.

The Western Trust recruitment drive targets Spain, Holland, Greece and Poland.

It aims to address the "huge challenge" of recruiting staff.

In the last financial year, the trust spent almost £13m on medical and dental locum and agency staff.

The Department of Health said all trusts in Northern Ireland were "facing challenges in securing appropriately qualified medical professionals".

Currently, there are 95 "hard to fill vacancies" in the Western Trust area which spans the counties of Londonderry, Tyrone and Fermanagh.

A Department of Health spokesperson said efforts to fill medical vacancies focusing beyond Ireland and Britain had filled 26 posts since 2014.

Almost £230,000 has been spent since then on advertising costs and agency finders fees.

The spokesperson said:" "In addition to the Trust recruitment process, they have engaged with an agency to target the international market and have had some success to date, recruiting to the following areas: Radiology, Palliative Medicine and Oncology.

"Additionally the Trust has recently made offers to applicants in the following areas: Gastroenterology, Clinical Oncology and Diabetes & Endocrinology."

The trust is also employing retired consultants on a part-time basis to fill gaps, while further measures include relocation and expenses packages for consultants who remain in post for an agreed period.

In a statement the Western Trust said there was a "clear plan of action which has been set in motion and are making steady progress in addressing the issues".