The BMA has warned of a major recruitment and retention problem among Scotland’s consultants as the latest figures show vacancy rates continue to rise, despite overall staff increases.
Official statistics from ISD Scotland show that consultant vacancies rose by 25.5% between March 2014 and 2015, equalling a total of 407.6 empty posts. Posts are also remaining unfilled for longer, with the number of whole time (WTE) posts vacant for six months or more rising by 86.4% to 147.7 posts.
However, NHS Scotland has seen overall staff increases of 1.5% (160,746 staff) and 1.2% (137,603.5) in total for WTE staff that year. The biggest increase was seen in nursing and midwifery (1,001.8 WTE staff), whereas the number of consultants saw an annual increase of 4.8% (224.8 WTE staff).
BMA Scottish consultants committee chair Nikki Thompson said: “Consultants, in post and working, are vital to patient care. Jobs unfilled after months on end put huge pressure on services as remaining consultants struggle to cover the gaps.
“The Scottish government must recognise that it has a major recruitment and retention problem, and take action to value the consultants we have, and attract those others that patients and services desperately need.”
However Shona Robison, Scotland health, well-being and sport secretary said the number of NHS staff overall was at a record high — and that the number of consultants had also risen to its highest ever.
She said: “This demonstrates that, to give people the high-quality health care they deserve, we are investing in and supporting a highly skilled NHS Scotland workforce.”