NHS Scotland faces staff shortage crisis
The NHS in Scotland is facing a staff shortage crisis, as almost 7,000 roles for doctors, nurses, midwives and other health professionals are lying empty across the country. According to the latest figures from NHS Scotland, the vacancy rate for consultants has risen by 11.7 per cent in the past year, reaching 13.9 per cent in June 2023. This means that one in seven consultant posts are unfilled, with some specialties such as psychiatry, radiology and emergency medicine having even higher gaps.
The situation is also alarming for other staff groups, such as nurses and midwives, who have a vacancy rate of 7.2 per cent, equivalent to 4,262 posts. The Scottish government has pledged to recruit an extra 3,000 nurses and midwives by 2025, but critics say this is not enough to meet the rising demand for health services.
Doctors’ leaders warn of serious impact on patient care
The Scottish government has blamed the UK government’s immigration policies for the staff shortage, saying that Brexit and the end of free movement have made it harder to attract and retain staff from overseas. However, doctors’ leaders have said that the problem is not only about recruitment, but also about retention and morale of the existing workforce.
Dr Lewis Morrison, the chair of the British Medical Association (BMA) Scotland, said that vacant consultant posts are “seriously impacting” patient care in the NHS, leading to longer waiting times, cancelled operations and increased pressure on staff. He said that the Scottish government needs to address the underlying issues that are driving doctors away from the profession, such as workload, pay, pensions and career progression.
He also called for a “fundamental rethink” of how health services are delivered in Scotland, saying that the current model is “unsustainable” and “not fit for purpose” in the face of the ageing population, the Covid-19 pandemic and the climate emergency.
Patients and staff deserve better, say campaigners
The staff shortage crisis in the NHS has also sparked concern among patient groups and campaigners, who have urged the Scottish government to take urgent action to improve the situation. The Patients Association Scotland said that patients are suffering from the lack of staff, and that the NHS needs to invest more in training, development and support for its staff.
The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) Scotland said that nurses and midwives are working under “intolerable” conditions, and that the staff shortage is putting their health and wellbeing at risk. The RCN Scotland has launched a campaign called “Fair Pay for Nursing”, calling for a 12.5 per cent pay rise for all nursing staff in Scotland.
The Scottish Labour Party said that the staff shortage is a “national scandal”, and that the Scottish government has failed to deliver on its promises to improve the NHS. The party’s health spokesperson, Jackie Baillie, said that the Scottish government needs to “get a grip” on the crisis, and that it should increase funding, staffing and capacity in the NHS.