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Pressure of vacancies will continue, say doctors leaders

Peter Bennie portrait serious
BENNIE: ‘Every vacant post increases the strain on other staff and adds to the pressures the health service in Scotland is facing’

The BMA has warned that more needs to be done to attract doctors to work in Scotland, saying that medical vacancies are putting pressure on health services.

Speaking as the Scottish Government announced that numbers of hospital medical staff were expected to increase by 1.7 per cent in the current financial year, BMA Scotland chair Peter Bennie said it was also vital to value and retain staff already in post.

Projections drawn up by Scotland’s NHS boards show a mixed picture, with some reporting good recruitment and retention, and others unable to attract staff to medical posts.

For example, NHS Dumfries and Galloway reports ‘serious medical recruitment challenges that are threatening service delivery’, and says that ‘most services have been maintained through the use of locums’.

NHS Grampian warns that supply, recruitment and retention of medical staff is an issue for all grades, and NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde – Scotland’s largest health board – is actually projecting an overall drop in total numbers of staff in post due to a need to make financial savings. It is, however, predicting a 0.3 per cent increase in medical staff.

NHS Fife, on the other hand, says that ‘ongoing recruitment activity’ will ‘further reduce reliance’ on locums, and NHS Borders reports ‘success in recruiting new/replacement consultants to all specialties, including shortage specialties’.

Health secretary Shona Robison said there were record numbers of staff across the NHS in Scotland, and the projected figures showed the service was on track to continue that increase.

She added: ‘Increasing staff numbers is important, but we are also focused on making sure we develop and retain the flexible workforce we need. This is backed up by other measures in our workforce strategy, such as extended “return to practice” programmes and improved recruitment and retention schemes, particularly in rural areas.’

The BMA, however, warned that although numbers of posts are rising, this was not keeping up with demand, and that projecting numbers of vacancies was not the same as filling them.

Dr Bennie called for more action. ‘These projections show that the NHS in Scotland expects there to still be significant numbers of medical vacancies in the year ahead as difficulties in recruiting and retaining doctors continues,’ he said.

‘Every vacant post increases the strain on other members of staff and adds to the pressures that the health service in Scotland is facing. It is essential that more is done to attract more doctors to come and work in Scotland and to value and retain staff who are already in post.’

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