Barriers to recruitment and retention in the NHS have been outlined by MSPs on the Health and Sport Committee in a letter to Health Secretary Shona Robison MSP.
This follows a short inquiry by the Committee where they heard evidence about high vacancy rates for consultants and nursing and allied health professionals. It is asking what immediate steps the Scottish Government is taking to address these vacancies.
One of the main barriers to recruitment identified was in training and the lack of supply of new graduates and recruits across the health and social care spectrum. This includes medical and nursing specialities but also the allied health professionals such as radiographers, pharmacists, maternity care assistants and social care staff.
The Committee is asking the Government if there would be advantages from having a degree of national direction when it comes to non-controlled subjects and if the current intake for controlled subjects (medicine, dentistry and nursing and midwifery) is adequate.
MSPs also heard evidence the quality of data available to inform work force planning decisions is variable. For example the data available on social care is very poor and the data for Allied Health Professionals is not reliable. Concern was raised about the reduction of midwifery training places due to an over-production of graduates and a shortage of graduate nurses.
The Committee believes if workforce planning was robust and covered all relevant employees and roles then these situations would not arise.
The letter asks the Scottish Government how the possible outcomes of Brexit (including the possibility EU nationals will not be allowed to remain to work) are being factored into workforce planning calculations.
Convener of the Committee Neil Findlay MSP said:
“It is concerning to this Committee that 11 years since the previous Health Committee raised concerns about workforce planning there appears to have been little improvement.
“Ensuring we have the right number of doctors, nurses and carers and other health professionals to look after the population is not an exact science. However, we would have expected some positive progress.
“Much attention has been given to concern around GP recruitment however, we heard of high vacancy rates for various health professionals. We are asking the Scottish Government what immediate steps it is taking to prevent this impacting on patient care.
“Whilst the implications of Brexit are largely unknown it is clear steps need to be taken now given that the figures suggest that EU nationals are fundamental to the successful running of our NHS and social care.”
The letter also considers the impact of recruitment and retention in rural areas. The Committee was concerned the age profile in some rural areas means services will be affected by a high number of people retiring in the near future.
The Committee explored what the barriers were to working in remote / rural area and uncovered issues such as higher living costs and infrastructure issues. Whilst MSPs were pleased to hear about schemes to help people move to rural or remote locations they believe more can be done to standardise incentives across all health board areas.