Thousands of Scottish NHS posts remain vacant

Three nurses and doctors stand side by side Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The Scottish government says it has invested in international recruitment

Thousands of Scottish NHS posts remain vacant, including consultants, nurses and midwives.

Consultant vacancies have increased by more than 20% since last year and more than half of these posts have been vacant for more than six months.

Nursing and midwifery vacancies also increased by more than 25% since September 2018.

The Scottish government said the expansion of the NHS had resulted in more vacancies.

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

Charities have called for "urgent action", including the publication of an NHS workforce plan.

More than 90% of medical training posts advertised in Scotland in the last year were filled, according to figures published earlier this week.

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Image caption Charities have called for the publication of an NHS workforce plan

A Scottish government spokesman said it had invested more than £600,000 in an international recruitment unit for NHS Scotland.

He added: "The headline vacancy rates for consultants and for nursing and midwifery have decreased slightly over the last quarter, and now stand at 8.2% and 6.0% respectively.

"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.

"We've already taken action, including investing over £600,000 in the establishment of an international recruitment unit for NHS Scotland."

Charities have warned that the NHS could face challenges over winter as a result of staff shortages.

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Image caption More than half of vacant consultant posts were left unfilled for more than six months

The BMA has called for urgent action to retain and recruit senior consultant posts in Scotland. The doctors' union also claimed that 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 this deeply worrying lack of doctors.

"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."

More than 75% of the increase in vacant nurse and midwife posts was seen in NHS Lanarkshire, NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde and NHS Tayside.

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

"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."

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