Doctors leaders in Scotland have warned that more needs to be done to attract and retain consultants after vacancies hit a six-year high.
Figures released by ISD (Information Services Division) Scotland last week show almost 220 WTE (whole-time equivalent) vacancies, or 4.7 per cent of all posts, in June of this year. This compares to 3 per cent in June 2012, and is the highest rate since September 2007 (6.9 per cent).
Acute medical specialties, with a vacancy rate of almost 18 per cent, and emergency medicine posts (12 per cent) are particularly hard hit.
The figures were released at the same time as the latest workforce projections, which show that hospital medical staff numbers should increase by 220 WTE staff, or 1.9 per cent, in 2013/14.
BMA Scottish consultants committee chair-elect Nikki Thompson (pictured above) warned against this rise becoming ‘an increase in vacancies’.
She said: ‘While an increase in hospital medical staff by 220 seems like good news, figures also demonstrate a growing problem of consultant vacancies in Scotland.
‘It is therefore vital that this does not just become an increase in numbers of unfilled posts. Much more needs to be done to make a medical career in Scotland attractive to encourage doctors to live and work in Scotland and to retain the doctors we have working on those specialties that have recruitment problems.’
She said although the commitment to increase medical workforce numbers was ‘a step in the right direction’, more needed to be done.
‘It is important, in the context of the rising and ageing Scottish population, that the medical workforce has the capacity to meet the subsequent increase in demand for NHS services,’ she added.
Figures from ISD also show progress towards meeting the target of cutting numbers of senior managers by 25 per cent in the five years to April 2015. Since 2010, senior manager numbers have dropped by 23.1 per cent.
Scottish heath and well-being secretary Alex Neil said: ‘I am in no doubt that we are making good progress in reshaping the NHS so that it is best placed to meet the needs of patients in the 21st century.’
Read the workforce statistics