The number of medical and dental staff in NHS Highland has increased by 55.2 per cent between September 2006 and September 2019. NHS Highland continues to focus on reducing the cost of locums and its reliance on them. On-going actions that have been taken directly by NHS Highland include a weekly control meeting; an on-going cost improvement programme; continuing work to recruit to a cohort of clinical fellow posts; recruiting to permanent posts, including offering flexible working and alternative roles to encourage doctors to work in NHS Highland; and engaging a medical recruitment agency to focus on international recruitment to vacant posts across NHS Highland, which is meant to emulate the success of NHS Grampian in that regard.
NHS Highland is also working with the national health service’s Scottish global citizenship programme to offer new opportunities to doctors to work as remote and rural consultants in rural general hospitals while being able to participate in global citizenship in Scotland and abroad.
We know now that construction of the new elective care centre will be delayed until early next year, and figures show that NHS Highland is spending more than £20 million a year on bank, relief and agency staff payrolls. Is the cabinet secretary sure that she will be able to fully staff the elective care centre—when it is finally finished—without increasing those costs?
It is worth noting that the figure for agency nursing and midwifery staff in NHS Highland has decreased. Although Mr Mountain is correct overall, such facts are important.
The member will be pleased to know that, in the last quarter, the vacancy rate in NHS Highland decreased to 11.7 per cent, and the number of longer-term consultant vacancies of six months or more decreased by 7.4 per cent.
A range of work is going on in recruitment. Our work to create the Scottish clinical collaborative, which we are undertaking with the Royal College of Surgeons and the north region boards, which includes NHS Highland, NHS Grampian and NHS Tayside, is perhaps most interesting. Very experienced consultants who are towards the end of their careers will take time to work in remote and rural areas, which will be of great assistance to NHS Highland.
Our workforce planning includes building in the needs of the elective centres, as well as other parts of our service. I am sure that Mr Mountain was pleased to see publication of “An Integrated Health and Social Care Workforce Plan for Scotland” on Monday.