A Dundee doctor has lifted the lid on the strain that staff shortages are putting on the NHS.
Dr David Yirrell says he has not been able to fill two consultant posts at his Ninewells department despite advertising on three occasions.
He said the recruitment crisis is worsened by reliance in Dundee on recruits with links to the area because the city is “neither on the tourist route nor a major centre”.
Dr Yirrell, who is the clinical lead for Ninewells’ department of medical microbiology, made his comments as part of an inquiry by MSPs into staffing problems within NHS Scotland.
He said of the five consultants he needs, there are two posts that cannot be filled.
“We have advertised on three occasions with only one suitable candidate who declined the post in favour of working as a locum,” he said in a written submission to the committee.
“To fill the gaps we have employed locums, part time and retired staff at considerable expense and strain on the service.
“There is an existing shortage of consultant microbiologists and with the changes in medical training (now joint with infectious diseases) this is only going to get worse.”
In Tayside, there were 30 consultant vacancies, 5.9% of the required workforce, according to the latest NHS Scotland figures for June. There were 33 unfilled posts in Fife, or 12.4% of the total worker base.
Doctors’ groups have also spoken out on NHS Scotland’s recruitment problems.
The British Medical Association said doctors are “dealing with rising demand, unmanageable workloads and increasing pressure” in a service “clearly struggling to cope with shortages”.
In general practice, a “diminishing” workforce is facing an “exponential increase in workload demand”, say the Royal College of General Practitioners.
George Doherty, NHS Tayside’s director of human resources, said the health board has a “strong track record” of recruiting, but added there are areas “where national shortages impact our ability to secure suitable candidates”.
Health Secretary Shona Robison said they have increased the number of trainee GPs taking up a post this year and have initiatives in place to encourage ex-family doctors to return to practice.
“We continue to work closely with NHS boards to minimise long-term vacancies, improve workforce planning and to use better intelligence about why and where vacancies occur,” she added.