Vacancies among NHS consultants 'more than double official figures'

The Scottish Government’s most recent data listed medical and dental consultant vacancies as 6.2%.

Vacancies among consultants more than double official Scottish Government figures, BMA Scotland claims iStock

The level of vacancies among NHS consultants across the country is more than the Scottish Government’s official figures, the British Medical Association (BMA) has claimed.

It claims the vacancy rate for whole-time equivalent consultants is at 14.3%, however the Scottish Government said recently that the consultant vacancy rate was 6.2%.

BMA Scotland submitted freedom of information requests to the 14 geographical health boards across the country to find its figure.

The Scottish Government’s most recent, quarterly, workforce data listed medical and dental consultant vacancies as 6.2%.

The doctor’s union say that this does not account for posts which are temporarily filled by locums, posts that have not yet been advertised, and posts that have remained vacant for so long they are no longer being advertised.

Dr Alan Robertson, chair of the BMA’s Scottish consultants committee, said no improvements have been made in the last year.

He said: “Consultant vacancies across Scotland remain worryingly high – these latest figures are not surprising, but I find myself increasingly frustrated that the Scottish Government is not revealing the true extent of them in the official stats.

“We are in the midst of a consultant recruitment and retention crisis – this year, we have seen increased agency spending on locum doctors, suggesting that finding permanent staff to fill the gaps is proving to be significantly challenging and is cause for huge concern.

“And yet, we keep hearing that NHS staffing levels are at a record high.

“But to repeat this over and over to staff on the ground who are depleted, exhausted and facing burnout is not just demoralising, but incredibly insulting.

“Staff are working flat out, doing absolutely everything they can to cope with rising demand which is spiralling out of control, but I cannot be any clearer when I say that just because there are more people on the payroll than before, does not mean there is enough.”

Scottish Labour health spokeswoman Jackie Baillie said: “This intervention from the BMA shows the scale of the crisis facing Scotland’s NHS.

“It’s all too clear that the SNP has failed to attract and retain vital consultant staff and that the ramifications for the NHS are dire.

“Thousands of Scots are stuck on waiting lists while this Government fails to end the staff exodus from our NHS.”

Scottish Conservative shadow health secretary Dr Sandesh Gulhane MSP has called for the health secretary to be sacked.

He said: “It should not have taken Freedom of Information requests to reveal the true picture of soaring consultant vacancies on Humza Yousaf’s watch.

“Our NHS is lurching into an ever-deepening crisis under this health secretary. Along with his predecessors, Humza Yousaf’s dire workforce planning is at the heart of many of the issues on the frontline in our health service.

“Our dedicated consultants who are already beyond breaking point simply cannot sustain the demands being placed on them while 900 posts lie unfilled.

“These staff shortages have a devastating knock-on effect on patients who turn up at A&E or who are waiting on vital treatments and procedures to take place.

“With these shocking stats, on top of the 6,000-plus nursing vacancies, it’s little wonder waiting times across Scotland’s NHS are so long.

“The buck stops with Humza Yousaf and he must be sacked immediately.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “NHS Scotland staffing is at historically high levels with Medical and Dental Consultants up by 65.9% since 2006.

“We are determined to increase the NHS workforce even further, with our Recovery Plan backed by more than £1bn.”

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