NHS core services at risk as cutbacks may rise to more than first feared

THE extent of staff cutbacks in the NHS in Scotland could be even greater than feared, putting frontline services at risk, research suggests.

• Brian Keighley, chairman of the British Medical Association in Scotland

A survey by the British Medical Association (BMA) found many doctors reporting redundancies in their area, recruitment freezes and unfilled staff vacancies across the UK.

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And 40 per cent of those questioned said access to treatments or therapies was being limited.

The Scottish Government has already revealed that health boards plan to reduce staff posts by 3,790 this year alone.

But Brian Keighley, chairman of the BMA Scotland, said the workforce figures "may not tell the whole story".

He is now writing to health secretary Nicola Sturgeon asking to what extent long-running unfilled vacancies and recruitment freezes have been factored into the figures published earlier this month.

Ms Sturgeon has stated that there will be no compulsory redundancies in the NHS, but NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde and Grampian have said that they are looking for some voluntary redundancies.

As the BMA started its annual conference in Brighton yesterday, the extent of the impact of financial cutbacks on NHS services was put firmly at the top of the agenda.

Doctors said their research showed that, despite reassurances that there would be no compulsory redundancies in Scotland, NHS organisations were already taking actions which could have "devastating and long-lasting consequences for the NHS".

A UK-wide survey of local negotiating committees (LNCs) – the bodies representing medical staff in hospitals – found that 24 per cent said redundancies were planned in their NHS organisation.

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Almost two-thirds (62 per cent) of the 92 committees which responded said that there was a freeze on recruitment. Some 70 per cent of respondents reporting a freeze indicated that it covered medical posts and 80 per cent that it applied to nursing posts.

Nearly three-quarters of respondents (72 per cent) indicated that clinical services or infrastructure developments were being postponed for financial reasons, and two in five (40 per cent) that access to treatments or therapies was being limited.

The Scottish figures on staff cuts announced earlier this month included more than 1,500 nursing and midwifery posts, as well as administrative and medical posts.

Dr Keighley said: "NHS boards in Scotland have been upfront in publishing planned cuts to the NHS workforce. However, these figures may not tell the whole story.

"Hospital doctors across the UK report that some NHS employers are freezing recruitment while medical and nursing vacancies remain unfilled.

"The cabinet secretary, Nicola Sturgeon, has already made a commitment to work with us and the other NHS trade unions to scrutinise NHS board plans, and it is in this spirit of partnership that I will be writing, asking her to clarify the situation in Scotland regarding the findings of this survey."

A spokesman for the Scottish Government said: "The Scottish Government has guaranteed that there will be no compulsory redundancies in the NHS, there will be more staff employed in Scotland's health service at the end of the parliament than there was when this government took office, and the quality of patient care remains paramount."


SHOPPERS should not receive "loyalty points" when they buy alcohol in stores, doctors will say this week.

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As part of growing concerns about the extent of alcohol misuse in the UK, the British Medical Association's conference in Brighton will hear calls for points to be axed from all alcohol purchases.

There will also be calls for a ban on alcohol advertising and a ban on the consumption of alcohol on public transport.

Ahead of the debate tomorrow, Dean Marshall, chair of the BMA's Scottish GPs committee, highlighted the need to send the right message on drinking behaviour by not allowing points on alcohol. "It really seems to fly in the face of public health messages," he said. "We don't want them to be discounting alcohol; we don't want them to be encouraging people to buy more and more," he said.

Conference will hear new calls for a minimum price for a unit of alcohol. The Scottish Government has proposed the measure, but it seems unlikely to succeed without support of opposition parties, which have expressed concerns about it.