The cost of paying temporary doctors at accident and emergency units across the West Midlands increased by 65 per cent in three years as hospitals struggled to find permanent staff.

Data obtained by the Labour Party showed £10.9 million was spent on temporary doctors, known as locums, last year - a rise from £6.6 million in 2009-10.

Agency doctors are employed for almost one in 10 consultant shifts and up to one in six more junior posts, the figures reveal.

A locum can earn £1,500 a shift, more than four times what it would cost to employ a permanent doctor.

Doctors groups said the situation was “absurd” and damaged morale.

Shadow health secretary Andy Burnham said the increasing costs were linked to the Coalition’s “disastrous” reorganisation of the NHS - a re-shuffle that left “a dangerous shortage of A&E doctors”.

The Department for Health set up a new body in 2012 called Health Education England to tackle shortages in doctors working in emergency medicine.

Health Minister Dan Poulter said the first warnings about the challenges facing accident and emergency units were put to the previous government as early as 2004, but they failed to act.

The figures show:

Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust spent £377,026 on locums
George Eliot Hospital NHS Trust £1.5 million
Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust £1.6 million
Mid Staffs NHS Foundation Trust £699,000
Royal Wolverhampton Hospitals NHS Trust £194,762
Sandwell & West Birmingham Hospitals NHS Trust £2.3 million
University Hospital of North Staffordshire NHS Trust £1.1 million
University Hospitals Coventry & Warwickshire NHS Trust £803,400,
Walsall Hospitals NHS Trust £221,433
Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust £1.5 million
Wye Valley NHS Trust, in Herefordshire, £533,057.