BMA chairman quits with call for action on staff and bed shortages

Peter Bennie of BMA Scotland
Peter Bennie of BMA Scotland
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The head of the British Medical Association (BMA) in Scotland has called for an improved NHS staff-shortage system as he announced his early retirement from front-line medicine.

In an interview with the Times, Dr Peter Bennie cited frustration with staff and bed shortages in the health service.

He said a system to divert staff to the departments most in need was urgently required.

Dr Bennie, consultant psychiatrist at Dykebar Hospital in Paisley, is to leave his post next month at the age of 55.

The outgoing chairman of BMA Scotland told the newspaper: “My own experience, when I am finishing a 
clinical day, is running over in my head the things I have not been able to do because there is not enough people to do the job as well as we would want to.”

Dr Bennie said there was a fear in the system that raising issues such as staff shortages “will not make any difference”.

He added: “One of the things which makes my colleagues quite happy about retirement is that working as a doctor is increasingly stressful, because of the fear of what might go wrong and not being supported with that and the lack of sufficient colleagues to feel you can do the best job that you can.”

He also spoke of the “frustration of trying to provide a good quality service when you are struggling to find a bed to admit people when they are in crisis”.

He has called for a reliable system to raise the alarm if a unit is struggling to cope, with extra staff brought in or patients diverted elsewhere.

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “Ministers appreciate the contribution Dr Bennie has made to the NHS and take the concerns he raises seriously.

“We are working to tackle these issues and that is why we are investing in NHS funding to deliver record high levels, and we continue to push the UK Government to deliver a net benefit to Scotland’s budget following their recent NHS funding announcement.

“NHS Scotland’s workforce has increased by over 10 per cent, almost 12,900 WTE (whole-time equivalent), under this government to historically high levels and has risen by almost 500 in the past year alone.

“That means more doctors, nurses and midwives working in Scotland’s NHS.”

Miles Briggs MSP, Scottish Conservative health spokesman, said: “I wish Peter well and thank him for the work he has done to during his time at the BMA.

“Instead of prioritising the health service, the SNP government spent years distracted by and obsessed with the question of independence.

“As such, it should come as no surprise to Nicola Sturgeon that such a senior figure has quit for the reasons he set 
out.”