A HEALTH board whose doctors warned of a looming A&E staff crisis says it is now making “significant” progress to resolve the problem.
Senior medical staff working for NHS Grampian raised concerns in June about staff shortages reaching a critical point at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary, including fears they did not have enough personnel on hand to resuscitate critical patients.
They warned that doctors and nurses would not be able to provide safe care for patients unless the situation improved.
Management at NHS Grampian launched a recruitment drive and arranged weekly meetings with senior A&E staff.
And a report going before the health board meeting has now stated significant progress had been made.
However, NHS Grampian’s director of workforce, Dr Annie Ingram, has noted that there was still “considerable” work to do before the crisis was resolved.
Dr Ingram said in the report: “The local workforce challenges involve both consultant and middle-grade medical staff.
“The board is advised that progress is being made though considerable work is still to be achieved to provide ongoing assurances.”
Dr Ingram said that weekly meetings with senior accident and emergency department staff would continue until the problem was sorted.
She noted that staffing levels had improved since the last board meeting with two of three vacant consultant posts filled.
One of the consultants is due to start this month and the second specialist will join the team in 2015 after completing training in paediatric emergency medicine.
A new rota has also been set up to ensure the safest level of consultant cover for the department.
Dr Ingram added: “The clinical and management team are optimistic that the progress that has been made over the past couple of months will encourage improved interest when we re-advertise the third vacant consultant post.
“Discussion is under way within the department as to how we promote the vacancy to improve the likelihood of making an appointment.
“The position of clinical lead for emergency medicine within NHS Grampian has been advertised and we are now confident of appointing to this important role within the next four weeks.
“This role will be pivotal in leading the clinical team in shaping and driving emergency medicine in future.”
Several new middle-grade doctors have also been recruited and the report stated that the rota was in a “much healthier” position.
However, Dr Ingram warned that new recruits would need time to familiarise themselves with the department and services.
This would potentially put “considerable pressure” on the current consultant team to support the changeover of staff.
Dr Roelf Dijkhuizen, the medical director at NHS Grampian, previously said he did not believe pay levels were a major factor in the recruitment crisis.