A campaign launched today is calling for action to increase the number of doctors being trained each year in Scotland.
Time For Doctors – the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh’s new campaign – comes at a time when the NHS in Scotland is facing a number of challenges including trying to meet the needs of a population living with multiple long-term health conditions.
In order to cope with these challenges and deliver quality patient care, the College says Scotland must continue to recruit and retain a ‘world-class medical workforce’ that is given more time to treat patients, to undergo training and to undertake clinical research.
Based on three main themes – time for training and retention and time to make staff feel valued – the campaign calls for greater support for doctors’ wellbeing and is backing a review of the amenities and services available to the medical workforce, including mental health support, and less than full time working and training.
Last week the Scottish Government announced the country’s medical workforce would be bolstered by 105 additional training posts to be in place by 2022.
“Our Time For Doctors campaign is about preparing now for the workforce of the future,” says president of the College Professor Derek Bell.
“But without quality training and support, reasons to continue working in the NHS and valuing the workforce, we don’t think this will be possible.
“So we are getting the message out to Scottish ministers and MSPs that workforce planning is crucial for the future of the NHS in Scotland.”
“Currently, the medical workforce faces a number of challenges in Scotland. Factors such as rota gaps, early retirement, medical student dropout rates, poor working environment and the potential impact of a no deal Brexit have all affected NHS recruitment and retention in one way or another.
“At the same time, workload in Scottish acute hospitals has increased over the past decade, impacting on quality of care and resulting in less time to engage in medical training and clinical research. Greater pressure on doctors has contributed to increased need for consultant presence, poor morale, and insufficient time for service development.
“We recognise the need for safe and sustainable staffing levels throughout the NHS in Scotland. We need to ensure that we continue to recruit and retain a world class workforce to deliver the best possible patient care. Scottish patients must be treated in the right place, and as quickly as possible. This requires the right numbers of staff and mix of skills across health and social care.
“It is vital that now, more than ever, we have effective workforce plans and policies in place to cope with demand on the NHS. It’s important that health boards continue to highlight consultant vacancies, and work with the Scottish Government and the Medical Royal Colleges to come up with effective solutions about how to fill them.
“The fewer consultant vacancies there are, the better the chance health boards will have of meeting treatment time targets while delivering quality care outcomes for patients.”
In August of this year Scotland’s national public spending watchdog, Audit Scotland, issued a warning to the government about GP recruitment.
The SNP administration was told it was likely to miss its target to boost GP numbers by 800, adding a ‘data gap’ was making it harder to plan what primary care staff are needed when and where.
Caroline Gardner, the Auditor General for Scotland, said: “To date, the Scottish Government has introduced major policy changes without a reliable basis for its plans.
“It now needs to get a much clearer picture of the workforce and set out detailed plans addressing how its initiatives will improve patient care and deal with future demand on services.”