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Patients at risk due to NHS staff vacancies, says MP Stone

By Matt Leslie

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North MP Jamie Stone has hit out at the Scottish Government, saying that the current staffing levels at NHS Highland are "risking patients' lives".

NHS data has revealed that in NHS Highland there were 280 nursing and midwifery vacancies at the end of March this year, 98 of which had been open for three months or more.

That is coupled with NHS Highland also experiencing a rise in consultant vacancies from 17 in 2014 to 34.

The Liberal Democrat MP insisted that more be done, especially for those in rural areas, to help NHS Highland deliver the care that all north patients need.

He said: "I am incredibly grateful to all those who work in our health services and continue to provide excellent care despite crippling cuts and under-resourcing.

"They are hard-working and dedicated staff who should not have to pick up the slack because of the mess the SNP Government is making of NHS staffing.

"Geography and distance have always been a real challenge for delivering health services in the far north but no-one should lack access to health services simply because of where they live.

"The Scottish Government is risking patients' lives by failing to address the staffing crisis which is why the Liberal Democrats want to see the health secretary publish an annual report on workforce planning and lead an annual debate on it in parliament.

"We must be proactive in recruiting and retaining NHS staff and the SNP must address the unique challenges faced in rural areas of Scotland."

Some boards can find it more challenging to fill vacancies for certain consultant posts and in some parts of Scotland.

Scotland's health secretary Jeane Freeman said that while some NHS boards in Scotland are facing recruitment challenges, nationwide, record levels of new staff are being delivered.

She said: "[Across Scotland] figures show a new record high number of NHS staff, with seven consecutive years of growth.

"The number of doctors in training has increased by more than 10 per cent since 2007 and by the end of this parliament we will have increased medical school places by 22 per cent over 2016 levels – the equivalent to an extra 190 places.

"We’ve also seen the number of consultant staff in post grow by 50 per cent.

"We know that some boards can find it more challenging to fill vacancies for certain consultant posts and in some parts of Scotland.

"However, it is not just about numbers – it’s also about investing in training and offering attractive and rewarding careers to those who commit to Scotland's NHS.

"We are improving how we recruit internationally, are examining how national and regional approaches might work and will be starting a coordinated recruitment campaign across health and social care this year.

"NHS staffing numbers in Highland have increased by almost 1500 under this government, an increase of 22.5 per cent. The number of consultants working in NHS Highland have actually increased by more than 50 per cent over this period.

"But we're determined to go further. That's why Scotland is the only part of the United Kingdom to pass Safe Staffing legislation, and why we work with boards to plan and recruit to their services."

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