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Safe-staffing legislation not enough

St Marys/Hammersmith Hospitals 21-12-16
Hospital doctor in corridor carrying stethoscope SMH2016

The BMA in Scotland has warned that legislation to ensure safe staffing levels will not be enough to solve the workforce crisis.

Although he welcomed the Scottish Parliament’s decision to pass the Health and Care (Staffing) (Scotland) Bill on 2 May, BMA Scotland chair Lewis Morrison said further action was needed.

‘Put simply, we just don’t have enough doctors to deliver the care that our system demands,’ Dr Morrison said.

‘Vacancies are at too high a level, and this just puts more pressure on the doctors in post. While there are many positives from the bill, it will not create more doctors – or staff of any type – simply by becoming law. Instead, we need much more concerted and targeted action to recruit and retain doctors and make the profession an attractive career choice once again.’


Doctors' voices

Dr Morrison (pictured below) said that the new duties placed on NHS boards and the Scottish Government to plan for and deliver adequate staffing levels would clearly help frontline NHS staff.

‘We particularly welcome elements added to the bill that will strengthen the input and voice of doctors and other staff, as well as better scrutiny of the delivery and monitoring of safe staffing levels. We also welcome moves to provide a clear route through which staff at all levels can raise concerns if they feel staffing levels are not safe. It is vital that the guidance which must now follow the bill is shaped by clinicians and works effectively in practice.’

While these were all important things, he added, more needed to be done to help alleviate the pressures facing doctors working in Scotland today.

‘That means promoting better work-life balance, protected training opportunities and a reversal of years of inadequate pay awards that leave doctors feeling devalued. For example, we look forward to the publication of the Scottish Government’s next workforce plan – which must set out a clear vision on how workforce shortages will be addressed sustainably and in the long term.’


Right place, right time

According to the Scottish Government, the bill is the first comprehensive, multidisciplinary workload and workforce planning legislation in the UK.

Speaking after the vote, health secretary Jeane Freeman said it was an important bill that would promote safe staffing across health and social care and improve patient experience.

‘It will ensure that the right people with the right skills are in the right place at the right time,’ she said.

‘Being open about decisions on staffing allows health boards to allocate staff efficiently and effectively.

'I want staff to feel engaged and informed about decisions relating to staffing requirements and feel safe to raise any concerns about staffing levels.’

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