A former health minister has written to NHS Grampian bosses seeking reassurances they are doing everything they can to recruit staff.
Kevin Stewart said it is “galling” there seems to be “little done” to respond to concerns raised by medics about shortages in the emergency departments in Aberdeen and Elgin.
It comes after senior doctors spoke out to the media amid claims management has ignored their staffing concerns for some time – saying they have been raising the issues since 2021.
The whistleblowers told BBC Scotland of a shortage in senior registrars at weekends, waiting times in excess of eight hours and staff being put in an “impossible situation”.
One doctor said: “We are witnessing ongoing harm with unacceptable delays to the assessment and treatment of patients.
“There have been avoidable deaths and at other times there are too long delays getting to patients who may be suffering from a serious condition like stroke or sepsis.”
Aberdeen Central MSP Kevin Stewart has now written to NHS Grampian’s chief executive Caroline Hiscox about the claims.
‘NHS Grampian takes a long time to recruit’
He wants assurances that the health board is doing “everything possible” to recruit, while supporting the existing workforce.
In his letter, the former mental wellbeing and social care minister said: “It is galling that there seems to have been little done to respond to previous concerns raised by staff and that this has led to a whistleblowing complaint being submitted.
“I recognise that there is extreme pressure on our health services due to the impact of the Covid pandemic, the backlog of treatments that are required to meet the needs of patients and of the competition to recruit qualified staff. However, as a former health minister I am also aware that NHS Grampian often took a very long time to recruit to vacant posts.”
While seeking reassurances that the recruitment process is efficient and targeting the right places, Mr Stewart also said it would be “enlightening” to find out what efforts are being made to boost primary care to reduce the need for patients to go to A&E.
Work ongoing to tackle shortages
Earlier, NHS Grampian confirmed it was aware of the “tremendous pressure” its emergency departments are under and that it in the process of expanding its workforce.
A spokesman said: “Service and staffing pressures have been with us for several years and we have worked hard to expand our multi-professional workforce in the emergency department and redesign unscheduled care services.
“This includes consultants, doctors in training, nursing staff, allied health professionals (AHP) and additional roles such as physician associates and emergency nurse practitioners.
“Our consultant workforce has expanded but is not yet at full capacity. Our nursing and AHP staff numbers have also increased and are fully recruited.”