Scale of doctor vacancies 'hidden', warns BMA

Written by Tom Freeman on 4 December 2018 in News

BMA Scotland FOI reveales higher rate of consultant vacancies than reported

Doctor performing test - stock

The rate of unfilled consultant posts in Scotland is more than twice what the Scottish Government is reporting, the BMA has warned.

An FOI by the doctors' union revealed a likely vacancy rate of 13.9 per cent, compared to the 6.8 percent figure reported by NHS stats body the Information Services Division (ISD).

Although the BMA did not question the accuracy of the official figures, it pointed out they exclude posts that have been yet to be cleared to be advertised and ignores the reliance on locum doctors.


 

Dr Simon Barker, chair of BMA Scotland’s Consultant Committee said the figures show a need for urgent action.

“Our members often tell us that the published consultant vacancy figures don’t reflect the reality of the huge challenges of working on the frontline of Scotland’s NHS. The new data from our FOI suggests they are absolutely right to feel that way," he said.

“This analysis shows that by not including certain categories of vacancy, the official statistics simply don’t provide the full picture of the scale of consultant vacancies in our NHS.

“For example, vacant posts that go unfilled are then removed from official figures. Our FOI data suggests that when these are added back in, and few would argue that these aren’t real vacancies, the actual vacancy rate is substantially higher than boards report. Collectively, that means there are potentially around 375 vacancies on top of those counted by official figures - the equivalent of a large hospital empty of its senior doctors.

“We welcome efforts made to increase the consultant workforce in recent years, and of course this is a complex and difficult issue. But we simply won’t make any progress in making sure we have a properly staffed NHS if we continue to work off incomplete figures or rely complacently on increases in the overall headcount. That simply isn’t good enough – for patients or doctors."

 

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