Doctors interviewed over web amid NHS staff crisis

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DOCTORS from across the globe are being interviewed over the internet by Lothian health bosses as a worldwide drive to avert a staffing crisis in the region’s children’s wards gathers pace.

A national shortage of paediatric doctors has put the children’s ward at St John’s Hospital in Livingston under threat of permanent closure while concerns have also been raised over the future staffing at the Sick Kids Hospital and neonatal unit at the Royal Infirmary, after it was announced that the number of paediatric trainees in the region was to be slashed.

But NHS Lothian has had interest from all over the world in its new posts, which have been advertised with the help of a specialist recruitment agency, advertising on Google, the creation of a new website and a campaign on professionals networking site LinkedIn.

NHS Lothian’s chairman, Dr Charles Winstanley, said the search had been a “thoroughly international exercise”.

The health board has begun using Skype – which allows users to speak and see each other over a live video connection – to interview applicants thousands of miles away.

Although the first attempt to assess four doctors from Burma who had applied for paediatric fellow posts was abandoned due to technical issues, another attempt is set to be made this week.

A prenatal fellow post has been filled by a doctor from Hungary and NHS Lothian has also received interest from countries including China, Romania and Holland.

Dr David Farquharson, NHS Lothian’s medical director, said: “There were attempts to recruit four Burmese doctors. The Skype technology seemed to defeat everyone and the interviews were postponed. This is the first wave of recruitment and we have more in due course. We are not lowering standards in terms of who we recruit.”

Interviews are set to be carried out next month with two consultant paediatricians, while notes of interest have also been received from two advanced neonatal nurse practitioners and an advanced paediatric nurse practitioner. Three applications for speciality doctor jobs have been received. A consultant paediatrician, who was previously a trainee in Lothian and has since qualified, has verbally accepted a job offer.

Peter Johnston, leader of the SNP group on West Lothian Council and a non-executive member of the NHS Lothian board, said: “I am delighted with the commitment to the 24/7 service [at St John’s] and would like to congratulate everyone involved. This is clearly the most extensive recruitment exercise NHS Lothian has ever been involved in.”

While the progress was also welcomed by other members of the NHS Lothian board and insiders said the response had exceeded expectations, there were warnings that the future remains uncertain as a long-term solution is not in place.