The BMA in Scotland has warned that the Scottish Government must ‘get real’ about the scale of consultant vacancies.
Latest figures show that rates of vacancies, including posts lying empty for six months or more, continue to rise, leaving substantial gaps in the workforce and placing more pressure on those who are in post.
The BMA is cautioning that the real picture is likely to be significantly worse because swathes of vacancies are not included in the official statistics.
These include those unfilled after a recruitment process, and those that have not yet been advertised.
At the same time, changes to pension arrangements are punishing some doctors who take on extra hours to help the NHS meet the shortfall by effectively charging them more in tax than the money they earn for doing the additional work.
BMA Scottish consultants committee chair Simon Barker said the figures were only part of the story.
‘For a start, these statistics are still hiding the real scale of vacancies among the consultant workforce. Previous analysis shows that a whole, large hospital could be staffed from vacancies left out of the figures. That demonstrates how far from reality today’s figures are likely to be. We need to get real about how many vacancies there are, and the BMA stands ready to help that process.’
He said that changes to pension rules were causing doctors to change their working habits in fear of receiving large bills for taking on extra work.
‘Colleagues are reporting an increasing impact on “front-door” provision of safe services as well as waiting lists as a result,’ he said.
‘All this tells the story of a workforce stretched to its very limit. We simply don’t have enough doctors. Yet, perversely, those doctors in post, who are going above and beyond what is expected of them to cover gaps in the workforce, are then getting punished financially for trying to help keep the NHS working. Action simply has to be taken.’
Health secretary Jeane Freeman said that there was a record high number of NHS staff, and that the number of consultant staff in post was growing.
‘When we publish the integrated health and social care workforce plan, the first in the UK, it will be informed by available data to help ensure that we have the right staff in the right place long into the future,’ she said. ‘The plan will also take into account, as far as it can, the unknown impact that Brexit will have on retaining and recruiting our workforce.’
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