LAST WEEK senior doctors in A&E departments in NHS Grampian went public about staff shortages which they claimed were causing unacceptable delays and avoidable deaths.

The Aberdeen- and Elgin-based doctors say their complaints of lack of senior staff have been ignored since 2021 and have now resorted to using the formal whistleblowing structure to try and get something done.

It’s a stark example of the pressures in NHS Scotland. Pressures the Scottish government shows little sign of being able to tackle.

The situation in the north-east involves a shortage of senior registrars but they are hardly the only unfilled vacancies.

Figures published in June showed 446 consultant posts and over 1,000 allied health professionals posts were unfilled. Nursing vacancies are running at over 5,500.

While these are the staffing issues most likely to generate alarm, the crisis in the workforce extends beyond nurses and medics.

Recently one NHS board in Scotland was working to secure a recruitment and retention premium for payroll staff. There are significant labour market shortages in other administration/clerical and support posts.

This chronic understaffing across the workforce can’t be separated from underfunding. It is a practice in health boards to drag vacancies to save money in the hope that existing staff can do more for less. But if the situation can’t be separated from underfunding it can’t be wholly put down to it either.

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