SCOTLAND’S NHS is facing a “mini-retirement boom” as more than 250 consultants are due to retire in the next five years.
Vacancies among key senior staff are already at a record 8.3 per cent, with nearly 450 unfilled posts in hospitals this year, according to the most recent data from ISD Scotland.
Health Secretary Shona Robison confirmed that there were 65 consultants due to hit retirement age between now and March in a parliamentary question submitted by Scottish Conservative MSP John Scott.
The total will reach 259 by 2020, without including the number of consultants who might decide to retire early.
Lothian hospitals have struggled to fill rising numbers of vacancies, as St John’s Hospital, in Livingston, was forced to temporarily downgrade its children’s ward due to staffing shortages. Papers before NHS Lothian’s board meeting last month revealed consultant shortages in psychiatry, medicine for the elderly and paediatrics.
Tory health spokesman Jackson Carlaw said: “The vacancy situation among consultants in Scotland’s hospitals is bad enough without a mini-retirement boom coming down the tracks.
“This places the SNP’s failure to properly plan for future staffing levels into even sharper focus.”
The number of consultants has not increased in line with the needs of Scotland’s ageing population, warned Dr Simon Barker, deputy chair of BMA Scotland’s consultants committee.
He said: “If we are to avoid crisis after crisis, the Scottish NHS must to do more to value and retain those consultants we have, to actively plan ahead to replace consultants approaching retirement and to attract the new consultants that patients and services need.”
Ms Robison insisted that Scotland had record numbers of consultants, with the number of senior doctors increasing by 38.2 per cent to more than 5000 under the SNP.
She said: “We are working with NHS boards to ensure safe, effective and high quality healthcare. It should be noted that not all staff that reach the average retirement age will retire as there is no legal requirement for them to do so.”