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17.11.17

Scottish NHS accused of deliberately leaving positions vacant to save cash

Some Scottish NHS bosses have reportedly been deliberately leaving key positions vacant to save money.

Speaking to MSPs at Holyrood’s Public Audit Committee, Scotland’s public finance watchdog, Audit Scotland, said it was one of the ways health leaders were reducing sector spending.

The committee had convened to discuss the ‘NHS in Scotland’ report from the country’s Auditor General, which detailed a number of policies that should be put in place to develop the service financially.

Scotland’s NHS is responsible for 43% of the overall Scottish budget (£13bn), but health bosses have been tasked with reducing costs as demand increasingly puts pressure on the system.

Following questions from SNP MSP Colin Beattie, Kirsty Whyte, audit manager for Audit Scotland, told the committee that it was common for positions to remain vacant for long periods.

“There’s a range of ways boards are trying to make savings around non-recurring elements. Some of it has been that actually, they have been delaying filling posts until a few months on, a year on, to try to make those savings.”

Official figures from the report showed that the equivalent of 230 consultants’ jobs had been left vacant for more than six months, with the overall system 470 consultants short in June this year.

Meanwhile, the Scottish NHS is also short of over 3,200 nurses and midwives – around 5.2% of the total number needed.

Across the border, staffing issues have become ever more urgent, with the public becoming increasingly concerned about low nursing levels.

The problems are only likely to worse according to some, as EU staff flock away from the country amid uncertainty over Brexit negotiations.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Under this government, NHS staff numbers have risen to historically high levels, with more doctors and nursing staff now delivering care for the people of Scotland.

“Our record investment of over £13bn is backed by a huge rise in staffing levels – up nearly 12,000 in the last decade – including significantly increased investment in GP services since 2007.

“It is clear that demand on our NHS will rise in the years ahead. That is why we have developed our National Health and Social Care Workforce Plan which sets out how we intend to recruit, develop and retain the multidisciplinary and flexible workforce we need to continue to deliver high quality healthcare for the people of Scotland.”

Top image: David Cheskin PA Archive

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