Health chiefs have won an 11th-hour reprieve after it emerged plans to slash the number of emergency medicine trainee doctors would not be going ahead.
NHS Lothian had braced itself for a significant cut to numbers from April, when it had been anticipated that just 25 would be available to cover the whole of south-east Scotland, compared to 52 in 2010-11.
However, the Scottish Government, which sets trainee numbers, informed the health board last month that the reduction would not take place.
NHS Education for Scotland (NES) said 38 emergency medicine trainees were set to continue to cover the region as they have done in the current financial year.
Of the trainees, 30 will be based solely in the Lothians, working at the Royal Infirmary, Sick Kids Hospital and St John’s Hospital, while the remaining eight will work at hospitals in Fife.
Dr David Farquharson, NHS Lothian’s medical director, said that new staff had been recruited to deal with the cuts that had been made in recent years.
He said: “NHS Lothian is guided by the Scottish Government and NHS Education for Scotland with regards to our annual emergency medicine trainee intake.
“We are working through a three-year workforce plan to develop the delivery of emergency care towards a more senior trained workforce.”
Since 2011, four emergency medicine consultants, six speciality doctors, 25 nurses in emergency medicine and six speciality nurses in emergency medicine have been recruited by the health board as part of the workforce plan.
The reductions in trainees have been made as demand for emergency hospital services grow to unprecedented levels.
At the Royal Infirmary emergency department, which is the busiest in Scotland, around 9000 patients are treated each month. Around 86,000 patients were seen annually in 2001, compared to 111,000 in 2010.
NES said the number of trainees to be recruited was set each year following a consultation around demand, staffing levels, planned retirements and population changes.
A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “The Scottish Government took a decision to ensure there would be no cut to the total number of emergency medical trainees across Scotland in December 2012. The allocation of trainees within Scotland is a matter for NES.”
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A SHORTFALL in the number of paediatric trainees has left the children’s ward at St John’s Hospital in Livingston under threat.
From February, just 34 paediatric trainee doctors will be available to cover hospitals in Lothian, Borders and Fife, well below the 47 required.
With paediatric trainees set to be withdrawn from the ward at St John’s Hospital, where fewer children are treated, NHS Lothian has launched a worldwide recruitment drive to fill posts with permanent staff, who would work for part of the time in Edinburgh.
But a worldwide shortage of paediatricians means that there is no guarantee the bid will prove successful.