Short staffed hospitals are reportedly so desperate to cover rota gaps they are offering to pay doctors up to £95 an hour.
Several strained hospitals have been "begging" doctors to work in order to meet the necessary minimum staffing levels.
Opposition politicians called the revelations "alarming".
In an attempt to coax doctors into working shifts in an “extremely busy” A&E, Peterborough City hospital advertised £95 an hour for a 10-hour shift last Tuesday, the Guardian reported.
The North West Anglia NHS foundation trust described the decision to advertise the maximum incentivised rate for senior doctors as “exceptional” but necessary to “ensure safe medical staffing levels”.
Last week, the Dudley Group NHS foundation trust increased fees for senior doctors from £60 to £70 an hour to staff A&E, the newspaper reported.
The Guardian also published extracts of numerous desperate emails pleading with staff to volunteer to work and help fill gaps in the rota.
An email sent in March from the John Radcliffe hospital in Oxford said: “I am sorry to be sending so many messages but I am in real need here. I am practically begging at this point. I really need some help.
“Can ANYONE help out for any length of the shifts needed this weekend? It really is a matter of keeping the department safe.”
Many doctors often work 70 hours a week or more, and there were several reports of medics being forced to go on-call immediately after 12 hour shifts.
Doctors described the staffing situation as “rather dangerous”, “bad for morale” and “worrying”.
The Government defended its health policy and said it was investing in NHS staff.
But opposition parties said the Government was not spending enough on the NHS. Shadow Health Secretary Jonathan Ashworth said: “The public will rightly be alarmed to hear that hospitals are struggling to recruit enough doctors. Patient safety is being put at risk because of this Government’s abject failure to recognise the importance of safe staffing levels, alongside imposing on the NHS the biggest financial squeeze in its history.
“Theresa May's approach to the NHS crisis has been one of utter incompetence. Now she must take urgent action to tackle the rising problem of rota gaps in our hospitals.
"Only by properly investing in our medical workforce and primary care services will she finally be putting patient welfare at the heart of her Government’s approach to the NHS.”
Everyone the Government blames for the NHS crisis – except themselves
Everyone the Government blames for the NHS crisis – except themselves
1/6 The elderly
“We acknowledge that there are pressures on the health service, there are always extra pressures on the NHS in the winter, but we have the added pressures of the ageing population and the growing complex needs of the population,” Theresa May has said. Waits of over 12 hours in A&E among elderly people have more than doubled in two years, according to figures from NHS Digital.
2/6 Patients going to A&E instead of seeing their GPs
Jeremy Hunt has called for a “honest discussion with the public about the purpose of A&E departments”, saying that around a third of A&E patients were in hospital unnecessarily. Mr Hunt told Radio 4’s Today programme the NHS now had more doctors, nurses and funding than ever, but explained what he called “very serious problems at some hospitals” by suggesting pressures were increasing in part because people are going to A&Es when they should not. He urged patients to visit their GP for non-emergency illnesses, outlined plans to release time for family doctors to support urgent care work, and said the NHS will soon be able to deliver seven-day access to a GP from 8am to 8pm. But doctors struggling amid a GP recruitment crisis said Mr Hunt’s plans were unrealistic and demanded the Government commit to investing in all areas of the overstretched health service.
3/6 Simon Stevens, head of NHS England
Reports that “key members” of Ms May’s team used internal meetings to accuse Simon Stevens, head of NHS England, of being unenthusiastic and unresponsive have been rejected by Downing Street. Mr Stevens had allegedly rejected claims made by Ms May that the NHS had been given more funding than required.
4/6 Previous health policy, not funding
In an interview with Sky News’s Sophy Ridge, Ms May acknowledged the NHS faced pressures but said it was a problem that had been “ducked by government over the years”. She refuted the claim that hospitals were tackling a “humanitarian crisis” and said health funding was at record levels. “We asked the NHS a while back to set out what it needed over the next five years in terms of its plan for the future and the funding that it would need,” said the Prime Minister. “They did that, we gave them that funding, in fact we gave them more funding than they required… Funding is now at record levels for the NHS, more money has been going in.” But doctors accused Ms May of being “in denial” about how the lack of additional funding provided for health and social care were behind a spiralling crisis in NHS hospitals.
5/6 Target to treat all A&E patients within four hours
Mr Hunt was accused of watering down the flagship target to treat all A&E patients within four hours. The Health Secretary told MPs the promise – introduced by Tony Blair’s government in 2000 – should only be for “those who actually need it”. Amid jeers in the Commons, Mr Hunt said only four other countries pledged to treat all patients within a similar timeframe and all had “less stringent” rules. But Ms May has now said the Government will stand by the four-hour target for A&E, which says 95 per cent of patients must be dealt with within that time frame.
6/6 No one
Mr Hunt was accused of “hiding” from the public eye following news of the Red Cross’s comments and didn’t make an official statement for two days. He was also filmed refusing to answer questions from journalists who pursued him down the street yesterday to ask whether he planned to scrap the four-hour A&E waiting time target. Sky News reporter Beth Rigby pressed the Health Secretary on his position on the matter, saying “the public will want to know, Mr Hunt”. “Sorry Beth, I’ve answered questions about this already,” replied Mr Hunt. “But you didn’t answer questions on this. You said it was over-interpreted in the House of Commons and you didn’t want to water it down. Is that what you’re saying?” said Ms Rigby. “It’s very difficult, because how are we going to explain to the public what your intention is, when you change your position and then won’t answer the question, Mr Hunt”. But the Health Secretary maintained his silence until he reached his car and got in.
And Liberal Democrat health spokesperson Norman Lamb said: "Hospitals are struggling to recruit staff because of the public pay freeze and underfunding in the NHS which leaves working conditions ever less attractive.
"Yet the government is making it even harder for hospitals to recruit by its muddled hard Brexit, rejecting Liberal Democrat demands to give an NHS passport guaranteeing the right to remain for all EU citizens working in the health and social care system.
"The staffing crisis in the NHS is only going to grow worse unless the government accepts cross-party calls to give the health service the decent, long-term funding it needs."Reuse content