Fears for health service staff levels

Colin Smyth has said that locum cover is required for Galloway Community Hospital's four consultant posts.
Colin Smyth has said that locum cover is required for Galloway Community Hospital's four consultant posts.

Concerns have been raised over the future level of staffing in Dumfries and Galloway’s NHS services after future projections show no extra staff within the health authority by March next year.

Conservative MSP Finlay Carson has said that the NHS Dumfries and Galloway board itself has made the projection there will be no added staff to the levels that were present in March this year.

With one in five consultant posts still lying vacant across the health board, Mr Carson is concerned that rural health services could be at risk unless urgent action is taken by the Scottish Government to recruit staff.

Local Labour MSP Colin Smyth has also criticised the amount of money spent on cover by locum staff for vacant posts, which he said has doubled in the past five years.

Figures released this week by the Scottish Government’s Information Services Division show that for the year ending March 31 this year, locum spend was £10,517,716 - double the £5,221,615 spent for the financial year ending March 2014 and a £500,000 increase from last year.

Mr Carson said: “The problems surrounding NHS recruitment have been known for a long time and the need for action has never been greater. With a fifth of consulting posts still vacant, there is a real risk to the services and standard of care patients will receive.

“For far too long rural health services have suffered from a lack of resources and focused investment, as well as services being centralised elsewhere. If these new figures do not push the SNP Government into action, then nothing will and I will continue to pressure the new Health Secretary into resolving the staffing crisis.”

Mr Smyth said that there are vacancies “right across the board” which cannot be filled.

He continued: “This forces the local NHS to spend huge sums on temporary staff which is massively more expensive that permanent contracts. In the Galloway Community Hospital alone we see locums called in to cover the four consultant vacancies and this is just the tip of the recruitment crisis facing.”

A spokeswoman for NHS Dumfries and Galloway, however, said the health authority is continuing to actively recruit staff.

She said: “NHS Dumfries and Galloway continues to recruit to a wide range of clinical and support vacancies for the region including doctors and nursing staff, to ensure that we are able to deliver safe and effective health and care services for everyone within our region.

“Our workforce plans and projections take account of this and recognise the significant investment we have made in our workforce establishment over the past 12 months as part of our DGRI redevelopment programme.”