NHS Scotland doctor and nurse vacancies rise

Written by Tom Freeman on 6 June 2018 in News

Workforce challenges ‘have never been greater’ warns RCN

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NHS Scotland long-term vacancies for consultants and nurses have increased by around a quarter in one year, according to the latest figures from official NHS stats body the Information Services Division (ISD).

The NHS Scotland workforce report shows there are 418 unfilled consultant posts and 850 nursing and midwifery posts vacant for three months or more across the country.

Sixty per cent of the consultant posts have been vacant for half a year or more, while in radiology, 80 per cent of vacancies have been unfilled for more than six months.

Meanwhile, 4,324 nurses and midwives left NHS Scotland.

Health Secretary Shona Robison said there was more staff than ever working in the NHS, but medical unions warned the vacancy levels put additional pressures on existing staff.

Robison said: "To help meet the demands the NHS faces we're putting record investment into our health service and legislating to ensure we have the right staff with the right skills in the right place.

“Spending on agency staff fell by 7 per cent over the last year and we have been clear with boards that they should only use an agency as a last resort when temporary staff are required.”

But Theresa Fyffe, the director of the Royal College of Nursing in Scotland, said the figures showed challenges around the nursing workforce “have never been greater” ahead of a forthcoming bill on NHS staffing. 

“In spite of more nursing staff being in post, the vacancy rate remains unchanged and number of long-term vacancy is up significantly on last year,” she said.

“The bottom line is that Scotland does not have the nursing staff it needs to care for everyone who requires it in a safe and effective way.”

Simon Barker, chair of BMA Scotland’s Consultants committee, said: “The lack of substantive progress that is being made in filling these vacancies and ensuring that Scotland’s NHS has the staff it needs is increasingly concerning.

“Every post in the NHS that lies empty makes it more difficult to deliver high quality care to patients and adds to the pressure facing staff left covering the gap created by the vacancy.

“Demands on the NHS are already at unprecedented levels and the struggles it is facing are only made worse by not having the medical staff in place that the NHS knows is required.”

The ISD figures also show rural areas continue to face the greatest challenge in recruiting staff.

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