'Workforce crisis' threatens future of NHS, leading medics warn

The NHS must urgently address its “workforce crisis”, a leading medical college has warned.

Picture: Michael Gillen.
Picture: Michael Gillen.

Efforts must focus on attracting new medical students, retaining current employees and diversifying the workforce, the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow said as it set out its Holyrood 2021 manifesto.

The college highlighted the burden placed on the NHS by the Covid-19 pandemic and warned that if pressing staffing issues were not addressed, they threatened the future viability of the institution.

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The manifesto also calls for staff to be given time to recover from the extraordinary pressures of the past year before activity increases after the pandemic in a bid to bring non-Covid waiting lists down.

Other areas highlighted include a call for “bold action” to reduce the damage caused to Scottish society by alcohol and drug misuse.

Professor Jackie Taylor, president of the college, said the resourcefulness and innovation used to deal with Covid-19 should be applied to addressing issues within the NHS after the pandemic.

“Although the pandemic brought the best out of our NHS and its staff, it has also highlighted and exacerbated the ongoing challenges that we have faced over the past few years,” she said.

“There needs to be a long and potentially uncomfortable look at some of the reasons why our medical talent is leaving the NHS. To be able to do this, we need to show the innovation which has been so apparent during the past year where solutions were found quickly and innovation broke through layers of bureaucracy.

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“There are key areas, which need to be addressed urgently”.

Prof Taylor said she was proud of the work the NHS had done so far during the crisis.

"While the Covid-19 pandemic continues to generate enormous challenges, we are proud of the vital part our membership has played in providing excellent patient care,” she said.

"Our fellows and members have shown leadership, flexibility and professionalism, ensuring that health services across Scotland and beyond were able to adapt at a breath-taking pace to meet the challenges of the pandemic.”

The current Scottish Government has committed in its plan to re-mobilise the NHS after the Covid-19 pandemic to support the physical and mental welfare of staff, and create a “sustainable” system in future rooted in “individual and staff wellbeing”.

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