Some hospital trusts are reported to have paid millions in wages for cover with costs around three times what they save in wages from the striking junior doctors.
According to the BBC, University Hospitals Plymouth paid a consultant more than £3,000 for one shift. It is said to have paid nearly £1.8 million in cover and saved less than £430,000 in wage deductions from striking staff.
Thousands of medics who are members of the British Medical Association (BMA) are walking out at NHS hospitals across England, with thousands of patient operations and appointments needing to be rescheduled.
Hospitals have put in place Christmas Day-style rotas, meaning emergencies are prioritised but most routine work needs to be stopped.
It comes as data collected by the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) shows 22 critical incidents have been declared as a result of strike action since December.
In two instances, some critical care patients and gynaecology patients had to be moved to other hospitals due to insufficient staffing numbers and some urgent cancer surgery and chemotherapy appointments had to be rescheduled. Other urgent surgery on trauma patients could not go ahead, according to the DHSC.
Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, which represents NHS organisations, told the PA news agency: “Consultants and junior doctors walking out together is the awful scenario health leaders have long feared, and now face a tough few days in their efforts to maintain patient safety, ahead of a longer, more difficult clear-up of the fallout.
“Leaders will have pulled every lever available to them to mitigate the impact of this strike, but it is inevitable that patient safety is compromised, and we believe that the level of risk is the highest we’ve seen for a long time.
“We suspect that, despite our members preparing thoroughly in advance, we may see more than 100,000 operations and appointments cancelled this time around, taking the total to well over a million.
“It’s estimated that the industrial action we’ve seen so far has cost over £1 billion; the cost of these latest strikes and those planned for October will likely cancel out or more the additional money promised to the system by the Government last week.”
As well as being out on Wednesday, junior doctors will continue to strike on Thursday and Friday this week.
Further joint strikes by consultants and junior doctors are planned for October 2, 3 and 4.