Baker’s Bulletin - The impact of vacancy levels at NHS Grampian

It was revealed last week that there were worrying levels of vacancies at NHS Grampian.

There are 62 fewer professionals such as Occupational Therapists, Radiographers and Physiotherapists employed by Grampian than there should be according to official figures. The 6.5 per cent vacancy rate in Grampian (62 from 955 or 6.5 per cent) is almost triple that of Greater Glasgow and Clyde which has only 68 vacancies from a full staff of 2783 (2.4 per cent).

There can be no doubt that new models of care should seek to enable people to spend as little time in hospital as necessary and to lead independent fulfilling lives. However, when the professionals needed to enable this such as OTs and Physios are missing then that goal is going to be missed.

Grampian has a real problem with delayed discharge and I have no doubt that is being exacerbated by the lack of key medical staff. You cannot discharge someone from hospital until appropriate OT assessments take place and with over 1 in every 20 Occupational Therapists missing then it is little wonder that patients are stuck in hospital longer than necessary.

We have also seen just this week that waiting times targets continue to be missed and that the number of people waiting for more than six weeks for diagnostic tests to be completed in Grampian have rocketed in recent years and the recruitment problems being faced are a major piece in this puzzle.

One of the major factors in recruitment is the cost of living. I have been involved in campaigning for a weighting allowance for Aberdeen and the North East similar to that which operates in London where an allowance is paid to staff to help offset the increased cost of living compared to other parts of the country.

However it is clear that this is not something which would be affordable without more support from the Scottish Government given the raw deal that our health board already faces.

I have for some time now been calling on Ministers to take more responsibility on these issues as it is their responsibility to ensure improving standards but unless we see a step-change then it is patients in the north east that will continue to be let down.