625 cries for more help by NHS Grampian workers

The health board was recently heavily criticised for using expensive locum doctors to cover consultant vacancies in the A&E department at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary. Picture: Contributed
The health board was recently heavily criticised for using expensive locum doctors to cover consultant vacancies in the A&E department at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary. Picture: Contributed
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A CRISIS-HIT Scottish health board has received hundreds of complaints from its own workers about staff shortages over the past year.

Employees working at NHS Grampian raised concerns about staffing levels 625 times and made 12 allegations of bullying.

The health board was recently criticised for using expensive locums to cover consultants’ leave at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary.

Hospital clinicians held crisis talks with senior management and met health secretary Alex Neil to discuss their concerns earlier this year. Dozens of staff were then interviewed by a Healthcare Improvement Scotland (HIS) inspection team.

NHS Grampian chairman resigns over ‘challenges’

An NHS Grampian spokeswoman said the health board could not reveal the concerns raised, but stressed that the board was actively recruiting new workers.

North East Labour MSP Richard Baker blamed the Scottish Government for the problems. “I find it pretty shocking that we have this level of complaints,” he said. “But it does not come as a surprise because of the immense pressure staff must be under because of the recruitment crisis. People complain when they are working in high-pressure situations, which affects morale because there are not enough staff to do the job.

“The fault of that, in my view, lies squarely with the Scottish Government, which has starved the health board of resources and it has not enabled them to recruit the staff they need.”

Former GP North-east Conservative MSP Nanette Milne said the number of concerns raised by NHS Grampian staff was “very worrying” and had to be addressed urgently. She said: “It is vital we build a culture of openness where our first-class front-line medics can speak out about concerns and suggest improvements.”

NHS Grampian chairman Bill Howatson resigned this month admitting that the health board faced “significant” challenges.

NHS Grampian board member Barney Crockett, who could be in line to take over his job, said: “The shortage of resources and the recruitment difficulties cannot go on. Aberdeen is the place in Europe where everyone wants to be and we have to make it more feasible.”

Earlier this month, NHS Grampian’s outgoing medical director, Dr Roelf Dijkhuizen, claimed the board had lost out on £1 billion of Scottish Government funding over the past decade.

But the government insists it has received increases in funding above the national average. A spokeswoman said: “This government has protected NHS Grampian’s front-line budget, which has increased by £229.2 million since 2007 and will increase by 4.4 per cent to £812.6m for 2015-16, both above inflation and the largest increase of any Scottish health board.”

The NHS Grampian spokeswoman said: “There are a range of ways our staff can raise concerns with their line managers or staff-side representatives and these will be acted on as appropriate. We are continuing to recruit to a range of positions throughout the organisation.”

NHS Grampian was criticised last September after it emerged it spent £2,000 to fly a locum consultant from India to cover sick leave over a weekend at A&E at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary.