An MSP has called for Scottish Health Secretary Shona Robison and Highland health chiefs to step down for failing to recruit vital specialists.
Frustrated consultant surgeons and doctors have vented their anger over the issue in unprecedented letters to the board.
Consultants and doctors at NHS Highland’s Department of Medicine have expressed “significant concerns about the problems” in radiology at the region’s main hospital, Raigmore in Inverness.
The crisis has surfaced in the run-up to an annual review of the service – on Friday – when Ms Robison will meet NHS Highland chiefs.
The board confirmed yesterday that it had received two letters – from consultant surgeons at Raigmore and from physicians in the Department of Medicine.
“Colleagues are expressing significant concerns about the problems currently being faced by radiology in NHS Highland, a spokeswoman said.
She cited “unprecedented pressure due to increasing demand” and a shortage of radiology consultants, stressing that it was “a national problem.”
The spokeswoman said: “We’ve been actively trying to recruit. Currently, we have three vacancies out to advert. Unlike other boards experiencing similar problems we don’t have any nearby alternatives.”
The board considers the consultants’ letters “measured,” and said the consultants were “willing to work with the board to address the significant challenges”.
While unsurprised by the letters, Conservative Highlands and Islands MSP Ed Mountain was saddened.
He said: “It reflects a problem across NHS Highland which the Health Secretary has failed to resolve. I’d be surprised if she was able to remain in position post the next cabinet reshuffle.
“And if the board had been trying for three years to deal with this, one has to wonder is they’re ever going to resolve it and whether they should be considering their position as well.”
Labour regional MSP Rhoda Grant said: “The Scottish Government need to get a grip of staffing levels. For too long they’ve ignored this, trying to save money.”
A spokeswoman for the Scottish Government said: “Ministers are conducting the annual review of NHS Highland this week and will meet with the area clinical forum to discuss these concerns.
“Under this government, the number of consultant clinical radiologists working in NHS Scotland has increased by 45.1% to over 324.”