Scotland's medical workforce to be expanded with £37m investment

The investment aims to meet the challenges facing the NHS in Scotland and future-proof it.

Scotland’s medical workforce to be expanded with £37m investment for training posts iStock

The Scottish Government will provide £37m over the next four years in the country’s biggest ever expansion of medical training posts.

In 2023, 152 additional places will be created for trainee doctors in a bid to meet the challenges facing the NHS in Scotland and future-proof it against rising demand.

The number exceeds last year’s record increase of 139 places, and equates to a 2.5% increase in the current Whole Time Equivalent (WTE) workforce of 6,100 trainees.

NHS Education for Scotland (NES) recommended the Scottish Government fund the creation of additional training places in a number of key specialties including general practice, core psychiatry, oncology, emergency medicine, intensive care medicine, anaesthetics and paediatrics.

The majority of successful applicants will take up posts in August 2023, however the Scottish Government is also funding additional core psychiatry training places which will have an earlier start date of February 2023. 

Further core psychiatry training places will also be made available for the August 2023 start date.

Health secretary Humza Yousaf said: “These additional training places highlight the Scottish Government’s continued commitment to ensure our health service is resilient and can continue delivering high quality care to those who need it.

“This record expansion will support a wide range of medical specialties, many of which are under increased pressure as a result of growing demand.

“We will continue to monitor the number of available training places in collaboration with NHS Education for Scotland to help make sure the NHS is equipped to meet the country’s current and future needs.”

NHS Education for Scotland medical director, Dr Emma Watson said: “We welcome this announcement of additional posts across a wide range of specialties. We believe Scotland offers the highest quality medical education.

“Our trainees are the NHS workforce of the future – enabling us to offer better quality care and outcomes for every citizen in Scotland.”

Responding to the plans, Dr Chris Smith, chair of the BMA’s Scottish Junior Doctors Committee, said: “Of course having more trained doctors in Scotland is a good thing, and we welcome the investment behind it. But the relative scale of these increases compared to the challenges the workforce faces risks these junior doctors being used to simply plug gaps given the current stretched state of the workforce – rather than make a real difference to workforce shortages in both the short and long-term.

“The demands on the health service mean that doctors are already missing out on training opportunities due to lack of time and resources – the Scottish Government needs to make sure that adequate resources are provided for doctors taking up the new posts as well as the junior doctors we already have – with 15% of consultant posts in Scotland unfilled, without our senior counterparts that will be very difficult to deliver.

“Further investment must be part of a comprehensive and long-term workforce plan which moves beyond year on year fluctuations and allows us to support existing staff; without increasing retention these new measures will provide a temporary solution at best. 

“This coming winter will only deepen the year-round crisis; doctors need support now so they are not forced to leave the NHS prematurely as a result of exhaustion, stress or feeling undervalued. Indeed, as Scotland’s junior workforce has expressed recently, morale is rock-bottom and we feel we are not valued as a workforce by employers or government, with unacceptable real terms pay cuts that have led to junior doctors’ pay being eroded by 23.5% in real terms since 2008.

“This investment to train more doctors is welcome – but it needs to be part of a much bigger plan, that includes urgently improving junior doctor pay and work-place morale.”

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