Figures published by the Royal Colleges of Physicians of Edinburgh, Glasgow and London, shows “the supply of doctors falls woefully short of demand” with most doctor vacancies left unfilled “due to no applicants.”
The figures show that the number of unfulfilled posts has reached a decade-high across the UK with some 80% of medical consultant job advertised in Scotland closing without finding a suitable candidate over the last year.
The “We simply don’t have enough doctors to meet the current and future demands on our health service,” said Professor Jackie Taylor, president of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow.
Sources within the NHS say it does not come as a surprise to NHS staff who are acutely aware that the doctor vacancies left unfilled is down to the lack of applicants as they are the number of unfilled posts and vacancies in the health service. Existing doctors and healthcare staff are forced to compensate for staff shortages by taking on excessive workloads. For too many, this is leading to burnout and is impacting patient care.
According to the census, more than half of medical consultants in Scotland are due to reach intended retirement age in the next decade.
“We must ensure that our chronic workforce shortages are now addressed as part of a sustainable and deliverable plan for our NHS, as we redesign our services in response not only to the Covid-19 pandemic but to achieve the NHS’ goal of becoming a net-zero greenhouse gas emissions organisation,” said Dr Marion Slater, elected member of council for recently appointed consultants at the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh.
The Scottish Government unveiled in August a £1bn-plus recovery plan for the NHS aimed at tackling the backlogs built up during the pandemic and increasing NHS capacity by 10%. The plan promises reforms to across Scotland’s hospitals and primary care, including the recruitment of more doctors and staff.
In October, health secretary Humza Yousaf, who is aware that doctor vacancies left unfilled is a problem for the service, announced a further £32m to recruit 140 new trainee doctors, however the British Medical Association said the plan could see junior medics being used to “plug gaps” in the workforce, rather than “make a real difference”.
The census revealed that most (71%) of consultants in Scotland worked extra hours due to their heavy clinical workload.
Almost half, (43%) worked extra hours as part of the Covid-19 response and a further 18% due to coronavirus recovery work.
A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “The number of staff working in NHS Scotland is at an all-time high, while the number of medical and dental consultants is also at a record high and has increased by 58.4% since September 2006 to 5758 WTE (Whole Time Equivalent).”
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