Retiring consultants pose problem for NHS Scotland

More than 250 consultants are set to retire from NHS Scotland in the next five years. Picture: Greg Macvean
More than 250 consultants are set to retire from NHS Scotland in the next five years. Picture: Greg Macvean
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SCOTLAND’S NHS is facing a “mini retirement boom” as more than 250 consultants are due to reach retirement age in the next five years, new figures have shown.

Vacancies among key senior staff are already at record levels, with nearly 450 unfilled posts in hospitals this year, according to the most recent data from ISD Scotland.

Health secretary Shona Robison confirmed that there were 65 consultants due to hit retirement age between now and March in a parliamentary question submitted by Scottish Conservative MSP John Scott.

These will reach 259 by 2020, not including the consultants who decided to retire early.

Tory health spokesman Jackson Carlaw said: “The vacancy situation among consultants in Scotland’s hospitals is bad enough without a mini retirement boom coming down the tracks.

“This places the SNP’s failure to properly plan for future staffing levels into even sharper focus.

“The Scottish Government will be crossing its fingers that many of these consultants turning 65 decide to stay on for a bit longer.

“But the reality could be worse, and many well under the age of 65 could be considering retirement plans of their own.

“Ministers must explain as a matter of urgency how they intend not only to reduce the number of vacancies, but also replace those for whom retirement is imminent.”

Earlier this month it emerged the number of consultancy vacancies had quadrupled, meaning 8.3 per cent of posts are unfilled.

Nursing vacancies are also at a new high, with 2,256 vacancies currently, compared to just 579 in 2011.

Health Secretary Shona Robison insisted that Scotland had record numbers of consultants, with the number of senior doctors increasing by 38.2 per cent to more than 5,000 under the SNP.

She said: “We are working with NHS Boards to ensure safe, effective and high quality healthcare is delivered by the right professional at all times, and we are developing better intelligence through robust medical workforce supply and demand profiles which take into account the effects of consultant retirement and other factors.

“In accordance with current legislation, we can no longer presume a retiral age as this is discriminatory. As a result, information relating to numbers of NHS consultants retiring in the next five years is not available.

“However, the number of consultants in post who will have reached the age of 65 within the next five years can be found in the table below.

Number (whole time equivalent) of consultants who will have reached the age of 65 by financial year.

“It should be noted that not all staff that reach the average retirement age will retire as there is no legal requirement for them to do so.”