A Bucks NHS hospital paid consultants £4,800 a shift during junior doctor strikes, it can be revealed.

Buckinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust shelled out millions of pounds on the wages of staff covering shifts in 2023.

The most expensive bills were £4,800 and £4,740 for two consultant shifts at Stoke Mandeville Hospital in Aylesbury during the junior doctor strikes in August.

The doctors earned £200 and £198 an hour for their shifts, which lasted 24 hours, according to figures from the Trust released under the Freedom of Information Act.

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Labour said the data, which comes during ongoing strikes by junior doctors, shows that the government needs to “get around the table” and negotiate a pay offer with them to put an end to their industrial action.

Buckinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust said: “Patient safety is our number one priority. To ensure we have maintained patient safety during industrial action we have had to pay higher than normal rates.

Bucks Free Press: Most expensive Bucks NHS doctor shifts in 2023“The payments you have quoted were for a 24-hour period over a weekend to support our maternity department and emergency life-threatening surgical cases. They are in line with rates paid by other trusts.”

The Trust’s data showed that it spent £3.3 million to cover staff absence in 2022 and £2.6 million between January and November 2023.

It also revealed that senior doctors covering shifts at Stoke Mandeville and Wycombe Hospital were frequently able to earn at least £3,000 a day.

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Most NHS consultants are not agency or so-called ‘locum’ doctors and have been covering junior doctors this week for no extra pay.

Locums earn more than contracted doctors in part due to them being available at short notice, potentially having to travel more and having more irregular work patterns.

Andrew Gwynne MP, Labour’s Shadow Health Minister said: “Conservative governments have refused to train enough doctors over the past 14 years, leaving the NHS desperately short staffed and taxpayers out of pocket.”

He added: “The Government’s refusal to negotiate with junior doctors is making a bad situation far worse. They should put aside their pre-conditions, get around the table today, and end these strikes.”

The Chair of the Aylesbury Constituency Labour Party Mark Bateman also hit out at the huge sums paid to doctors covering shifts.

He said: “I was aghast to see the sums of money paid to consultants to cover previous industrial action.

“These sums are staggering. The Health Secretary must be aware of how much is being paid for this and yet she refuses to engage in further talks.

“She has a responsibility to the public to ensure that this dispute is settled through dialogue and discussion with those striking. There is clearly a gap in her understanding of why this dispute is continuing.

“Everyone pretty much knows that the British Medical Association will settle for a fair and reasonable offer which acknowledges the responsibilities and skills that they have to ensure the retention and ongoing recruitment of Doctors.”

The Labour Chair added: “The frustrations with this Government continue. They have broken the infrastructure of our country, including the goodwill that has always existed with our NHS staff. The road back for our recovery needs to start with a general election as soon as possible.”

The Conservative MP for Aylesbury Rob Butler has been approached for comment.