BMA Scotland response to consultant workforce stats

by BMA Scotland media team

Press release from BMA Scotland

Location: Scotland
Published: Tuesday 5 September 2023
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Responding to today’s official workforce statistics, Dr Alan Robertson, chair of the BMA’s Scottish Consultants Committee, said:

“Consultant vacancies across Scotland are worryingly high – indeed, these are the highest they’ve been since the pandemic. WTE vacancies have increased by 100 in just six months – and it is an undeniable fact that the workforce is in crisis. Anyone who tries to tell you different is simply lying to themselves.

“It is extremely concerning that these latest figures show a 14.6% increase in vacant posts from the last quarter alone – rising from 446 to 511. However, BMA Scotland research carried out at the end of last year suggests that there are substantial numbers of vacancies not included in the official figures, and as a result the real figure is likely to be much higher than this – in fact we believe it to be almost double.

“The medical profession has been under an inordinate amount of stress and strain for many years – and consistently poor pay awards that have delivered years of real terms pay cuts have only made this worse. Consultants are tired, burnt out, and asking themselves if it is time to cut their losses. Today’s figures indicate more and more are doing that. Vacancy rates are not improving, and more specialties are simply becoming used to working with rota gaps which is not good for staff or patients.

“There is a serious workforce retention crisis and with our recent pay survey indicating that one in two consultants are more likely to leave the NHS as a result of the recent pay award, that isn’t going to be resolved anytime soon. Indeed, this precarious position is only going to get substantially worse without urgent action from the Scottish government for fixing pay, working conditions, and workload.

“We cannot hear again that NHS staffing levels are at a record high. Saying this to staff on the ground who are depleted, exhausted and burnt out is not just demoralising but incredibly insulting. Staff are working flat out, doing absolutely everything they can to cope with rising demand that is spinning rapidly out of control. We are stretched to our very limit and staff shortages are affecting the ability of doctors to deliver the high-quality patient care we strive for. Simply put, we do not have enough doctors in Scotland to effectively staff our NHS and deliver all that is being asked of us.

“The situation we are currently in is simply unsustainable – there is nothing left to give. Action needs to be taken now to prevent this crisis from spiralling even further and I am seeking to finalise the details of an urgent meeting with the Cabinet Secretary for health to discuss this. The deeply ingrained feelings of low morale, disenfranchisement, and dissatisfaction from across the consultant workforce in Scotland’s NHS needs to be addressed immediately.

“Serious steps must be taken in Scotland to make working as a doctor an appealing career choice, and both the Scottish government and employers need to show that staff are valued. That means a real focus on all aspects of reward – ensuring doctors, who have suffered years of real time pay cuts, are paid fairly with acceptable uplifts in line with inflation, alongside a renewed drive not only on recruitment of new staff but also, crucially, retention of the current workforce – through improved work-life balance and a concentrated effort on improving the mental and physical wellbeing of staff.”

Notes to editors

Full details of BMA Scotland’s consultant vacancy research can be found here.

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