BMA Scotland Responds to Audit Scotland Report

BMA Scotland has responded to Audit Scotland report, ‘NHS workforce planning’; a critical document outlining the future of the NHS in the nation.

Chair of BMA Scotland Dr Peter Bennie suggested that the BMA’s view on staffing was vindicated by the document.

“This latest report from Audit Scotland highlights what we have been saying for some time – there are serious workforce challenges facing the health service in Scotland which must be tackled by the Scottish Government as a matter of urgency.”

Bennie expanded on this assertion, and outlined some of the major healthcare issues in the region.

“Rising vacancy levels, a lack of effective workforce planning and an ageing staff profile is putting a significant burden on the existing workforce already dealing with the stress of a rising workload which is not being adequately resourced. Ongoing uncertainties for NHS Scotland staff from EU countries over Brexit compound the problems.”

The chair of BMA Scotland suggested that the report outlines fundamental problems with the NHS in Scotland.

“The report recognises long-term workforce planning has not been effective. It also highlights responsibility for NHS workforce planning is confused by multiple programmes and levels of response which makes it more difficult to ensure that the right mix of staff will be able to respond to the needs of a changing service where the impetus is to deliver a shift towards more community-based care.”

Bennie also believes that recruitment will get harder in the foreseeable future.

“The difficulties in recruiting and retaining the medical staff we need to provide high quality healthcare for the people of Scotland are well documented. Consultant vacancies have increased from 3.6% in 2011/12 to 7.4% in 2016/17. These unfilled posts mean doctors are trying to bridge gaps in the service which ultimately undermines the quality and safety of patient care.”

And the chair also outlined the competition that the Scottish healthcare system faces from other countries.

“The NHS in Scotland faces competition in a global market when it comes to attracting doctors to work here and we are steadily losing ground. In the face of a 14% real terms pay cut over the last five years there are now over 400 unfilled consultant posts in Scotland, with half of these jobs lying empty for over six months.”

According to Bennie, this problem is further exacerbated by NHS policy.

“This is compounded by the fact that some NHS boards choose to employ consultants on contracts which do not allow for adequate time to keep up to date, to teach, and to improve and develop services. BMA Scotland has been calling on the government to improve these contracts in order to address the recruitment and retention issues. The government must be prepared to recognise and reward the investment of at least a decade that goes into training secondary care doctors.”

Finally, Bennie pointed out that there are serious flaws in the data currently collated by the Scottish healthcare authorities.

“Vacancy levels for staff and associate specialist doctors in Scotland’s hospitals are not even measured, and there are significant gaps in the junior doctor workforce. The high level of long term vacancies is a clear sign that the Scottish Government is not getting to grips with the crisis in the recruitment and retention of NHS staff and action is needed now to make Scotland an attractive place for doctors to train and work.”

As of 31st December 2014, the total number of NHS Scotland staff in post was 137,511.9 whole time equivalent (WTE) – an increase of 1.8% in a year.

The figures, released by ISD Scotland, show that under the current government the NHS Scotland workforce has grown by over 8%, with 10,450 more WTE staff.

This includes an additional 2,315.7 WTE qualified nurses and midwives working in the NHS under this Government – a rise of 5.6% to a new record high level of over 43,000 WTE qualified nurses and midwives.


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