BMA Scotland has warned the Scottish Government to “get real” about the scale of the consultant shortage.
According to the BMA, latest figures show that rates of vacancies, including posts lying empty for six months or more, continue to rise, leaving substantial gaps in the workforce and placing more pressure on those who are in post.
The BMA is cautioning that the "real picture is likely to be significantly worse" as “swathes of vacancies” are not included in the official statistics. These include those unfilled after a recruitment process, and those that have not yet been advertised.
At the same time, changes to pension arrangements are punishing some doctors who take on extra hours to help the NHS meet the shortfall by effectively charging them more in tax than the money they earn for doing the additional work, the BMA said in a statement.
BMA Scotland consultants committee chair Simon Barker said the figures are only part of the story.
“These statistics are still hiding the real scale of vacancies among the consultant workforce. Previous analysis shows that a whole, large hospital could be staffed from vacancies left out of the figures. That demonstrates how far from reality today’s figures are likely to be. We need to get real about how many vacancies there are, and the BMA stands ready to help that process,” he said.
“All this tells the story of a workforce stretched to its very limit. We simply don’t have enough doctors. Yet, perversely, those doctors in post, who are going above and beyond what is expected of them to cover gaps in the workforce, are then getting punished financially for trying to help keep the NHS working. Action simply has to be taken,” Mr Barker said.