NHS consultant vacancies are continuing to increase in Scotland.
The official figures published by ISD Scotland show that there has been a 29% increase in vacant 014 to 447.5 vacant WTE posts in June 2015.
Of those vacant positions there has been an 102.4% increase in the number that have been vacant for 6 months or more, from 92.9 WTE posts in June 2014 to 188 WTE posts in June 2015.
Overall ISD Scotland puts the WTE consultant vacancy rate for June 2015 at 8.3% of the overall consultant establishment, however a previous investigation by BMA Scotland suggested that official figures are underestimating consultant vacancies.
Dr Nikki Thompson, who chairs the BMA’s Scottish Consultants Committee, said: “Official figures show that the number of vacant consultant positions in Scotland has risen by almost a third in the last year. We also know that there are consultant vacancies that do not get picked up in official statistics, so the real picture is very likely worse.
“Consultant care must be available when patients need it. We know that remaining consultants are struggling to cover the gaps, but there is a limit to how long people can work safely at this intensity. Twice as many consultant jobs are now lying vacant for months on end, and staff and services cannot continue at this level of pressure.
“The Scottish Government must recognise that they have a major recruitment and retention problem, which will damage the care that patients receive .They must take immediate action to value and retain those consultants we have, and to attract the others that patients and services need.”
On the positive side, the number of consultants in post increased by 5.4% (252.7 WTE) to 4,943.0 WTE between June 2014 and June 2015.
Prof Derek Bell, president of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh, said: “While the increase in the number of consultants in post in the past year is encouraging, the high number of vacancies coupled with the number of junior doctors leaving the country to pursue a career elsewhere is already creating real pressure on those working in the NHS. This does not bode well for the future.
“The College, the Scottish Government and other allied organisations need to work together to address these issues as a matter of priority and ensure that we deliver safe and sustainable staffing levels across the NHS now and in the future.”