Health Secretary Shona Robison has insisted she “isn’t backing away” from building a flagship trauma centre in Aberdeen – despite concerns over a brain-drain as uncertainty over the project lingers.
The Scottish Government said the centre at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary (ARI), which could save up to 40 lives a year, would be built by the end of this year – but has since admitted top doctors have doubts about the proposals.
Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald claimed uncertainty over whether the centre would be built was making it harder for NHS Grampian to recruit staff.
Latest figures show that 7% of senior doctors’ posts are lying vacant at the north-east health board.
Ms Robison said she was “optimistic” clinicians would reach a consensus on where the trauma centres – which were also slated for Dundee, Edinburgh and Glasgow – should be built.
During a debate in parliament, Mr Macdonald said: “Does the cabinet secretary (Ms Robison) recognise that her Government’s apparent decision to back away from its commitment to a major trauma centre at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary is causing great concern among clinicians there?
“Will she undertake to consult and listen to the views of clinicians in Aberdeen about the potential impact of the decision on their ability to recruit and to maintain existing services?”
Former Health Secretary Alex Neil announced the plan to build the four centres in 2014 – but Ms Robison recently admitted that senior clinicians were unsure if all four facilities would be sustainable.
The centres are designed to treat people with serious injuries after accidents like car crashes or falls.
Responding to Mr Macdonald, Ms Robison said: “There is no backing away from anything.
“Clinicians from all four proposed major trauma sites have been involved in the work of the national planning forum from the outset and continue to be involved.
“It is important that we try to reach a consensus among the clinical community, and I am optimistic that will happen.
“We need to allow people to get on with the good work that they are undertaking, and I will keep a close eye on matters as they go forward.”
NHS Grampian has said it is continuing to plan for ARI to be a major trauma centre in a north of Scotland network.