NEW warnings about accident and emergency services have emerged after senior consultants said they were unable to continue to provide safe care for patients due to a lack of staff.
Doctors at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary have told NHS Grampian of their serious concerns following a fall in the number of staff working in A&E.
The warning comes after growing fears about the state of Scotland’s emergency departments, with poor performance on waiting times and surges in demand in recent weeks.
A briefing paper to NHS Grampian’s board highlighted concerns from doctors working in the Royal Infirmary’s A&E about the impact of staff shortages on the services being provided.
It said: “The consultant group’s principal concern is that they will not be able to continue to provide safe care for patients in need of their agreed primary role, ie resuscitation of those with life and limb-threatening conditions.
“As well as patients, they are also concerned about the potential impact on all staff who work in the emergency department, unscheduled care and the rest of the hospital.” The hospital has just over ten full-time posts for consultants working in its A&E, but three are vacant. Work is continuing to fill these posts.
In addition, there are ten middle-grade doctors attached to the department. This number is due to fall to two in August, but the board said it was working to try to make sure new doctors were recruited.
A statement from NHS Grampian said: “Appropriate medical cover in the emergency department (ED) is of key importance to us and is receiving our closest attention.
“A top-level group involving all ED consultants and senior management has been set up and is meeting on a weekly basis.
“A number of key posts are out to advert and early indications are that appointments will be made.”
Health secretary Alex Neil said: “NHS Grampian have assured us that they are taking all necessary steps to recruit the doctors they need by August. NHS Grampian have already seen positive results from the range of actions they are taking, with two posts already filled, and in this week alone they’ve progressed three posts to the final stage of agreement, and received notes of interest for a further three posts.”
Earlier this week, Mr Neil told a conference of NHS staff that efforts were being made to recruit young doctors from around the world to try to plug gaps in departments such as A&E.
On Thursday, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde revealed that an “unprecedented” surge in demand in the city’s A&E departments had put strain on services, with patients having to be transferred and routine operations cancelled earlier in the week.
NHS Lanarkshire has also spoken of increased demand in its A&E departments.
Neil Findlay, Scottish Labour’s health spokesman, said Grampian’s problems were being repeated all over the country.