Thousands of NHS Scotland staff posts remain vacant over winter

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Credit: NHS Scotland

Rachel Stamford
News Editor

In response, the Scottish government said it had invested more than £600,000 in an international recruitment unit for NHS Scotland. However, charities claim this is not enough to fill the vacancies.

The NHS may face challenges over the holiday season as thousands of posts remain vacant, including consultants, nurses and midwives.

Consultant vacancies have increased by over 20 percent since last year while nursing and midwifery vacancies increased by over 25 percent. More than half of consultant posts have been vacant for over six months.

Latest figures also show that nearly 500 consultant posts are vacant in Scotland, and nearly 4,000 nurse and midwife posts are also unfilled.

Charities are now warning that the vacancies will cause challenges over the holidays.

The British Medical Association (BMA), a trade union and professional body for doctors in the UK, claim the NHS figures may “understate the true position” of consultant vacancies in Scotland.

Alan Robertson, deputy chairman of the BMA’s Scottish consultants committee, said the government needs to take urgent and long-lasting action to address the “deeply worrying” lack of doctors.

Robertson said: “Previous analysis shows that a whole, large hospital could be staffed from vacancies left out of the figures, which demonstrates how far from reality today’s figures are likely to be. We need to be realistic about how many vacancies there are, and the BMA stands ready to help that process.”

In response to the lack of medical staff, the Scottish government said the expansion of the NHS had resulted in more vacancies.

A Scottish government spokesman said the government has invested more than £600,000 in an international recruitment unit for NHS Scotland. Additionally, the headline vacancy rates for consultants and for nursing and midwifery have decreased slightly over the last quarter, and now stands at 8.2% and 6.0% respectively.

The spokesman added: “NHS Scotland is a large organisation and given the natural turnover of staff in an organisation of this size, it will always carry some vacancies. Partly as a result of the increase in jobs available, the number of vacancies has increased, as has the length of time many of these posts have remained vacant.”

More than 90% of medical training posts advertised in Scotland in the last year were filled, according to new figures. More than 75 percent of the increase in vacant nurse and midwife posts was seen in NHS Lanarkshire, NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde and NHS Tayside.

However, there are still thousands of open NHS positions, and charities are still calling for further government intervention.

Norman Provan, associate director of the Royal College of Nursing Scotland, said Scotland needs more nursing staff.

Provan said: “The serious consequences of staff shortages are clear and the current vacancy level is further evidence of the need to legislate to ensure staffing for safe and effective care.”