Responding to the Scottish Government National Workforce Strategy for Health and Social Care, Dr Bernie Scott, Deputy Chair or BMA Scotland, said:
“This is an important strategy, which we are pleased to see published after some delay. It deserves serious consideration, and we will look at it in detail.
“On first reflections it is a mixed bag with some positive moves – but also some worrying gaps. It does importantly include promising steps to invest and develop the medical workforce for the future. We welcome the increased investment and ongoing commitment to expand medical training places. This goes someway to acknowledging the parlous position our NHS and its workforce is in and signal some tentative steps towards a path to a more sustainable future.
“The key missing section is on retention. It takes a long time to train doctors – yet at the moment we face the pressing risk of losing more and more of those we currently have. While the section on nurturing the workforce is welcome, we need much more co-ordinated, urgent action now, to guard against the possibility of losing many doctors before new recruitment has any chance of making an impact. This strategy needed a much greater focus on how we prevent that, through fairer reward, finally sorting pensions tax charges, better worklife balance – and just making NHS Scotland a more attractive place to work, with an improved culture and less of a focus on targets and blame.
“Similarly, if we are to recruit and train more doctors, we need the senior doctors in place to educate the doctors of the future. This strategy is again light on that – which links closely back to retention. Doctors will yet again be hugely disheartened by talk of record numbers of staff and increasing capacity by 10 per cent. These are not realistic statements given our NHS and its staff can barely cope with what is asked of it at the moment. We would also question the suggested 1 per cent growth in staffing, which seems an arbitrary and unclear commitment and is difficult to tally with the hoped for growth in capacity, for example.
“There is an important focus on improved data – yet there is still a failure to acknowledge the fact the data we have doesn’t truly reflect the scale of the problems we face. Consultant and specialty doctor vacancies are still substantially underestimated in official figures and there is a lack of good data on the GP workforce – big gaps which we need to plug going forward.
“The task now is to start building on this – it is at best just a start and a strategy that must now be developed and delivered. We hope to be involved in the implementation of the strategy, including the development of a fully formed plan for delivering the medical workforce the people of Scotland need today and well into the future.”
Notes to editors
The BMA is a professional association and trade union representing and negotiating on behalf of all doctors in the UK. A leading voice advocating for outstanding health care and a healthy population. An association providing members with excellent individual services and support throughout their lives.