ONE in 14 consultant posts in NHS Scotland is vacant, with one health board saying it has advertised some vacancies 24 times without a single applicant.

Data obtained under freedom of information by the Scottish Liberal Democrats found that 381 out of 5,367 consultant roles are currently unfilled.

The party asked each health board how many consultant posts it has across its workforce, how many were currently vacant, and details of recruitment efforts.

The responses were dated from November 2020.

READ MORE: Warning Moray Covid surge linked to people 'not self-isolating'

More than 102 of the vacancies had been empty for more than a year.

Of the mainland health boards, vacancy rates were highest at 19 per cent in both NHS Dumfries and Galloway and NHS Ayrshire and Arran, followed by 18% in NHS Fife.

The islands are worst affected, however, with half of consultant posts empty on Orkney and more than one in three unfilled on Shetland and the Western Isles.

NHS Ayrshire and Arran reported the single longest consultant vacancy with a post empty for nine years.

HeraldScotland: Responses by health board. NHS Highland did not respond to FOI Responses by health board. NHS Highland did not respond to FOI

NHS Tayside, which has faced scrutiny over its mental health services, reported than 10 out of its 15 re-advertised consultant vacancies were for psychiatrist posts.

In Dumfries and Galloway, the health board said it had advertised for two elderly care consultants on 24 separate occasions without a single applicant, and for a diabetes consultant 23 times with only two applicants.

NHS Lanarkshire said one of its consultant posts has been filled by a locum since October 2016, while NHS Fife has had a consultant radiologist post empty for five years.

READ MORE: Waiting lists for operations balloon during pandemic as 180,000 fewer procedures take place

NHS Western Isles said it had tried 12 times to recruit a consultant physician.

Scottish LibDem health spokesman, Alex Cole-Hamilton, said: “These figures show the stresses and strains that our NHS is operating under.

"This will be worrying for patients and mean extra work for existing staff.

"Staff are working around the clock but they aren’t getting anywhere close to the support and resources they need.

"The workforce is being stretched more thinly than ever, while dealing with more and more challenging workloads."

READ MORE: BMA warns of 'perfect storm' of missing consultant vacancies

BMA Scotland has previous warned that official statistics undercount vacancies by excluding posts for which recruitment efforts have been abandoned.

HeraldScotland: Dr Graeme EunsonDr Graeme Eunson

Dr Graeme Eunson, chair of its Scottish Consultants' Committee, said: “It is vital that this chronic shortage of doctors is addressed: we need to see serious steps in Scotland to make working as a doctor an appealing career choice, and show doctors they are valued.

"That means, along with focussed efforts on recruitment and retention, an improved work-life balance, giving doctors the chance to rest and recover from the past 12 months."