THE number of medical staff working in Lothian’s NHS hospitals drops from almost 1200 on weekdays to just 25 at weekends, new figures have revealed.
The data, obtained by Labour and produced at First Minister’s Questions, also showed a 62 per cent drop in the numbers of nurses at work.
Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont said the NHS in Scotland was experiencing a growing problem of overworked nurses, overstretched doctors, not enough beds, and gaps in out-of-hours and weekend provision. And she called for a “full scale review of NHS staffing and resources and confront with honesty the scale of the challenge”.
But First Minister Alex Salmond dismissed the demand and said there were more staff in the NHS under the SNP than there had been when Labour was in power.
The figure for Lothian – a snapshot of average staffing levels, taken over the week of August 26 to September 1 – showed only 25 medical staff on duty at weekends compared with 1182 during the week. The number of nurses fell from 5186 to 1919.
Staffing in other fields also fell, with staff such as dieticians, physiotherapists, speech and language therapists and occupational therapists dropping from 1853 to 90.
The row over staffing came days after NHS Lanarkshire was told to make a range of improvements at three of its hospitals, after it was revealed they each had a mortality ratio significantly above the Scottish average.
Ms Lamont had argued that while the “high number of deaths may have been unique to Lanarkshire, the problems that caused them are endemic in Scotland”.
She said: “Weekend staffing was something uncovered by Healthcare Improvement Scotland as one of the key problems in NHS Lanarkshire.
“The British Medical Association says that the situation is unsustainable and the Royal College of Nurses is calling for a full review.
“All over Scotland hospitals are operating with minimal resources against increasing pressures. What will it take before the First Minister acknowledges we have a serious problem in delivering the health service we would want for Scotland?”
But Mr Salmond insisted: “The health service doesn’t need a review, it needs resources to meet the rising demand. That’s why this Government has guaranteed the real terms increase in health funding, which Labour would not do.”
He said there were “specific problems in Lanarkshire”, but these were being addressed.
The SNP leader added: “Yes of course the health service is under pressure, but politicians respond to the health service by backing the nurses, backing the doctors and backing the real resources.”
Theresa Fyffe, Scottish director of the Royal College of Nursing, said: “We fully support the need for proper seven-day working in the NHS but we really need a top-to-bottom review of the whole system.
A spokesman for BMA Scotland said: “Any plans to increase consultant presence during weekends needs to recognise that, without a significant increase in workforce, there will be a reduction during the weekdays.”