MEDICAL leaders have called for a “substantial and serious plan” to tackle doctor shortages in Scotland and a “national conversation” about the future of the NHS.

In their manifesto ahead of the Scottish Parliament elections in May, BMA Scotland also said patients must be given a "transparent and realistic indication" of how long they will be waiting for treatment alongside a goal to eradicate "inappropriately lengthy waits" in the NHS.

However, there were warnings that pressure to ramp up turnover too quickly after the pandemic could backfire.

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The report said: "While doctors understand the eagerness to get all services up and running to maximum capacity to deal with the ever-growing backlog of cases, politicians and the public need to appreciate and understand that NHS staff across both primary and secondary care will need time to recover from the intense and highly demanding time they have been through.

"Workload pressures have been intense and will continue to be so for some time to come.

"Ignoring this urgent need for staff to get the opportunity to recuperate risks further burnout and simply pushing more doctors out of the profession for good."


The trade union estimates that consultant vacancies are already running above 15 per cent once posts which are empty, but which health boards have "given up" trying to fill, are counted.

It said: “Unless we are honest about the real vacancy rate figure, how can we hope to address future shortfalls in the doctors needed to meet the demand?”

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The report also highlighted the long term implications of the pandemic on staffing after junior doctors saw their training paused during the first wave as they were redeployed to help struggling departments.

The manifesto added: "Many junior doctors who were close to completing their training will now need it to be extended for another six to twelve months.

"This could create a bottleneck of junior doctors trying to complete their training and potentially have a knock-on effect to the ongoing supply of trained doctors to replace those who are retiring over the next few years."


BMA Scotland called on the next Scottish Government to agree to award all doctors "a significant and early pay award" that is "much higher" than inflation to compensate for a decade of real-terms pay erosion.

It comes as a survey of more than 900 doctors in Scotland, carried out by the BMA during November, found that two thirds (65%) did not feel that they were valued by politicians.

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Nearly half (46% )felt that the Scottish Government was not committed to involving the medical profession in its decisions about the future of the NHS, while 79% do not have a clear understanding of the long-term vision for the future of the health service.

BMA Scotland chair Dr Lewis Morrison said: “The results of our survey made for stark reading. It’s likely this is built on years of warm words, but little real action or honesty from all parties about the NHS, what we ask of it, and how we treat the people who work in it."

He added: “If Scotland is truly to get to grips with making the NHS sustainable, then now is the time for a national conversation about its future: what it should provide and how it should be funded.”

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said the SNP would look to raise NHS in-patient activity, day case and out-patient activity to 10% above pre-pandemic levels within one year if elected back into Government.

Labour’s National Recovery Plan seeks to get cancer treatment back on track by increasing staff and processing capacity to clear the backlog of appointments within a year.

The Scottish Conservatives have pledged an additional £2 billion of additional support for the NHS to tackle treatment backlogs, while the LibDems want mental health first aiders in every workplace.