Scotland is to see the “largest ever” increase in places for trainee doctors, with health secretary Michael Matheson claiming it will help relieve pressures on the NHS.
He spoke out as the Scottish Government confirmed an additional 153 trainee doctor posts would be created next year.
The additional posts, which will cost £42m over the next four years, represent a 2.3% increase on the current trainee doctor workforce, which has 6,570 whole-time equivalent trainees.
It comes after NHS Health Education Scotland recommended increases in the number of trainee places for 24 different medical specialities – including in anaesthetics, emergency medicine, general practice, intensive care medicine, paediatrics, psychiatry and surgery.
Announcing the move, which will see the new the trainees take up their places in August 2024, Matheson said: “Funding for these additional places will help to relieve some of the pressures currently facing our health service.
“The level of expansion taking place in 2024 – the largest ever – shows the Scottish Government’s continued investment and commitment to ensure that our health service is equipped to deliver timely and effective care to those who need it.”
The health secretary added: “Under this government NHS staffing is at a historically high level – up by around 29,100 whole-time equivalent.”
He pledged the Scottish Government would continue to work with NHS Education for Scotland to “ensure that we have a sufficient supply of doctors to meet future demand.”
However, the British Medical Association (BMA) insisted the Government needed to produce a long-term workforce plan as part of efforts to solve the “NHS workforce crisis we are undeniably in”.
Dr Hugh Pearson, deputy chairman of the BMA Scotland’s Scottish council and junior doctors committee, said: “We know there are not enough doctors to meet the demands of the service and this in turn means there are not enough senior doctors to help train and supervise those of us coming through.
“Rather than congratulating themselves on ‘historically high staffing levels’, the Scottish Government needs to put into place a long-term workforce plan that looks not just at recruiting and training tomorrow’s doctors but also retaining the ones we have.”
Dr Pearson said doctors are “burnt out” with many leaving the NHS, adding that the training of junior doctors was “already suffering from overworked trainers and trainees”.
As a result, he added: “Creating more posts without talking about the wider implications of having the time and ability to access high quality training is futile when the NHS is spending it’s time purely firefighting and dealing with unmanageable demand.”
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