Hospitals across the North West paid the highest rates for locum medical staff, an analysis of expenditure on temporary staff in 2013-14 has indicated.

The study of £69.8m of spending by 37 NHS providers found the region’s average pay rate for locums (£65 per hour) was more than 40 per cent higher than in Yorkshire and the Humber, which paid the lowest rates of £46 per hour.

Agency rates 2013-14

The analysis by financial services firm Liaison also found relatively high levels of locum spending in accident and emergency departments, which it said was driven by an “acute” shortage of specialist staff.

Almost 20 per cent of expenditure on locums last year went on temporary A&E staff, the study indicated. The report also found significant variations in the commission charged by agencies for finding staff. The highest average commission rates last year were paid in the North East, with an hourly commission rate of £8.60. The lowest, in Yorkshire and the Humber, came in at £5.60 an hour.

John Graham, finance director of Royal Liverpool and Broadgreen University Hospitals Trust, said it was “extremely interesting” to see that North West trusts were paying some of the highest rates in the country.

He said: “The assumption may have been that labour rates would be higher in the South East, but a scarce supply of locums in our region has led to an escalation in pay rates outside of national framework agreement agreed parameters.”

Liaison’s managing director Andy Armitage said there was no single explanation for the variation in pay rates in different regions. “[This is] a supply and demand issue. For instance, you have remote hospitals that need to pay more to attract people.”

The firm’s study pointed to previous research that suggested that spending on medical locums accounts for 33 per cent of the NHS’s expenditure of temporary staff (£691m). This figure does not include bank or self-employed staff.