Minisers Ignoring 'Major Risk' Of NHS Staff Shortages

Doctors have accused the Scottish Government of "simply ignoring a major risk to the health service'' by failing to deal with staff shortages in the NHS, the chair of the British Medical Association (BMA) in Scotland is set to claim.

Dr Peter Bennie will use a speech on Wednesday to highlight the "unrelenting'' pressures staff and services are facing - adding there are areas where the NHS lacks enough staff to "look after patients properly''.

Official figures show more than 400 consultant jobs across Scotland are unfilled while Brexit could spark an "exodus of talented staff'' from the health service, Dr Bennie will claim.

He will say "urgent action'' is now needed to tackle the problems, with the BMA calling on governments across the UK to increase the amount of cash that goes to the NHS.

The BMA's Scottish chair will use his speech to the organisation's annual representative meeting in Bournemouth to speak out about the issues medical staff are facing.

He will argue the public must be consulted about which services they want to see provided on the NHS as well as being told "honestly how much it will cost''.

Both the "financial difficulties facing the NHS in Scotland and the pressures on our clinical workforce are unrelenting,'' Dr Bennie will say.

He will add: "Good health services cost money and health spending is a political choice.

"The UK spends a smaller proportion of its national wealth than the average levels spent by comparable leading European nations and the BMA is calling for that to change, in all four nations.''

On the "key area'' of staffing, he will insist: "We simply do not have enough doctors in general practice or secondary care in Scotland to look after patients properly.

"The most recent government figures show that more than 400 consultant posts in Scotland are unfilled and almost half of these have been unfilled for more than six months.''

Junior doctor positions in many specialities "lie empty'', he will add, while more than a quarter of GP practices are "missing'' senior staff.

Dr Bennie will say: "Scottish Government repeatedly says that 'there are more doctors than ever before' - but this is simply ignoring a major risk to the health service and it is demoralising and frustrating for doctors to hear time and time again.''

The BMA is calling for a "realistic approach to workforce planning in Scotland''.

He will state: "We need to be able to fill vacancies so that we can look after our patients properly and take care of our own health, reducing the risk of burnout.

"Government and employers need to work with us, to listen to the opportunities we have identified for improving the working lives of doctors and to take urgent action now.''

He will also argue that many of the health problems doctors have to deal with are "due to many years of deprivation, inequalities and poor public health''.

Health Secretary Shona Robison: "This Government has delivered an all-time record number of NHS staff, with an increase of more than 12,000 since taking office - as well as record-high funding for Scotland's health service.

"We are increasing the NHS revenue budget by £2 billion by the end of this parliament, by which point more than half of frontline spending will be in community health services. This year alone we are investing £128 million to help support delivery of service reform. This extra funding will support the redesign of services so the NHS can meet the challenges of an ageing population.

"We have also delivered the integration of health and social care, which is one of the most significant reforms since the establishment of the NHS, and which is helping improve service delivery.

"Our ambitions for the NHS are founded on the twin approach of investment and reform. All of this is backed up with our long-term vision for the health service, as laid out in both our National Clinical Strategy and Health and Social Care Delivery Plan.''

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