Patients may be served ready meals at a hospital in the Western Isles due to a shortage of chefs.
The area’s health board is considering temporary closures of the dining room at Uist and Barra Hospital on Benbecula after failing to fill three catering jobs.
Three posts – for a chef and catering assistants – have been advertised more than 20 times in the past four months without success.
NHS Western Isles said it would ensure that hospital vending machines are “well stocked” with drinks and sandwiches for staff, but conceded the proposed arrangements were “not ideal”.
NHS Western Isles chief executive Gordon Jameson, said: “Despite our ongoing efforts, we have been unable to recruit to the three vacant posts in Uist, and we are potentially facing temporary closure of the dining room in the hospital if we are unsuccessful in our current recruitment efforts.
“We are unable to sustain the current level of service with only four permanent staff in post, having to cover every shift. We have explored options, including assistance from other agencies, however we are now having to look at contingency arrangements for both staff and patient meals.
“We are currently exploring the option of buying in ready-cooked meals for patients, and will ensure that our vending machine on site is well stocked with a wide range of drinks, snacks and sandwiches for staff. However, these arrangements are not ideal and we will continue to pursue recruitment into the required posts in the meantime.”
The vacancy rate in the hospital’s catering department is at 46% with further staff retirements due soon.
The two catering assistant posts and the chef position at the hospital have been vacant since October last year.