Radiographers and Oncologists (Recruitment and Retention)

Question Time — Scottish Executive – in the Scottish Parliament at 2:30 pm on 12th June 2003.

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Photo of Robert Brown Robert Brown Liberal Democrat 2:30 pm, 12th June 2003

To ask the Scottish Executive what steps it is taking to increase the recruitment and retention of radiographers and oncologists in the Greater Glasgow NHS Board area. (S2O-189)

Photo of Malcolm Chisholm Malcolm Chisholm Labour

The Scottish Executive is taking positive action to recruit and retain radiographers and oncologists in the Greater Glasgow NHS Board area, including providing significant extra resources and pursuing a targeted recruitment drive for the Beatson oncology centre. On top of that, the Executive is implementing a range of recruitment and retention initiatives, including various courses and incentive schemes for all national health service staff.

Photo of Robert Brown Robert Brown Liberal Democrat

I accept that there is an international dimension to the problem but, as there is a worldwide shortage of oncologists and radiologists, can the minister confirm that there are adequate training places in universities and training centres for the recruitment of new people to those specialties? Does he expect to be able to overcome the shortages in the near future, particularly at the Beatson, where I believe there are six oncology shortages?

Photo of Malcolm Chisholm Malcolm Chisholm Labour

I am sure that I speak for all members in welcoming Professor Rodger to his post as the medical director of the Beatson from last week. Professor Rodger discussed the issue in question in his first week. Many staff have been recruited at the Beatson and a significant number of therapy radiographers have applied for and got jobs there. There is great progress in that area.

Robert Brown referred to oncologists and particularly clinical oncologists. We know that there is an international problem in that respect. I am pleased that over the past two or three years in Scotland we have increased the number of specialist registrars, who are the health professionals who will become consultants in due course. Robert Brown will have heard Alan Rodger speak with confidence about attracting applicants for some of the clinical oncologist posts that are currently being advertised at the Beatson.

Photo of Dr Jean Turner Dr Jean Turner Independent

As there is a world shortage of oncologists and as we perhaps cannot compete with salary payments, I suggest to the minister that we might give oncologists an inducement. As the national health service sells off most of its land for building houses, perhaps we could do a deal with the builders, keep some houses and offer lovely homes to go along with the jobs—we have a lovely country. If that is not possible, we might remember that, many years ago, banks gave their staff cheap mortgages. Perhaps we could extend such a scheme to nurses and other members of the NHS. However, lovely houses with jobs for people from abroad would be perfect.

Photo of Malcolm Chisholm Malcolm Chisholm Labour

Many factors will help to attract consultants to Glasgow, one of which is the splendid new Beatson that will be built very soon. The £700 million capital investment in the health service in Glasgow will also attract people. I regret that, in all Jean Turner's excursions into the territory, she has not noticed that the sale of land is helping to pay for £700 million of investment in Glasgow's health service.

We are making positive progress on consultants' contracts in Scotland. Jean Turner will know that such progress has not happened in England. If we continue to negotiate in the final stages—which I believe we will do—the Scottish health service will have significant inducements and advantages.