Row over unfilled nursing vacancies in the region

NHS Dumfries and Galloway has countered allegations that hundreds of staff posts are lying vacant and the service is in crisis.

The move follows claims by Galloway and West Dumfries MSP Finlay Carson that services are “at breaking point” with 212 nursing and midwifery posts unfilled.

Mr Carson has also criticised what he believed to be a lack of NHS winter planning as the period of peak demand approaches.

In response, the local NHS admitted recruitment was challenging – but highlighted “a great deal of positivity” about a new joint jobs drive.

And it insisted figures for staff vacancies were less than half those quoted by Mr Carson.

A spokesperson told the News: “Within NHS Dumfries and Galloway there are currently vacancies for approximately 59 registered general nurses, and 34 health care support workers.

“Within maternity services, there are 10 whole time equivalent midwifery vacancies and one health care support worker vacancy.

“Recruitment to post is a long-standing and well-publicised challenge, and the primary factor around current vacancies is an older staff profile within the region and consequent retirements.”

The spokesperson added: “Dumfries and Galloway is very active in its work to recruit to posts and very shortly will be launching a national recruitment campaign in conjunction with the Scottish Government and three other remote and rural health boards.

“There is a great deal of positivity that this will be effective in recruiting to post.

“Most acute posts should be filled over the next couple of months by newly-qualified staff.”

Speaking at First Minister’s Questions, Mr Carson said: “Our amazing NHS Dumfries and Galloway staff are at breaking point, with 212 nursing and midwifery posts vacant – that is 10.3 per cent of posts, which is a record high.

“We have repeatedly called for an NHS winter plan to be published as soon as possible.

“Will the First Minister confirm whether a plan will be published and, if so, when?”

Ms Sturgeon replied: “The NHS has been planning for winter, is planning for winter and continues to plan for winter each and every day.

“I concede that it is difficult to recruit right now to health and care services, just as it is difficult to recruit to haulage companies and for agricultural businesses to recruit people to pick fruit and vegetables, for

“The reason for that, which is why it is galling to have that question posed by a Conservative member, is the damage that has been done and is now being felt because of Brexit.”

Meanwhile, Unison Scotland has written to health secretary Humza Yousaf citing “deep concern” about pressure being put on staff.

Head of health Willie Duffy said: “The current and constant demands on staff are taking their toll and staff are struggling to continue to provide safe and quality services. We are finding that staff are unable to take their meal breaks on a regular basis.

“They are working way beyond their contracted hours and working overtime shifts to keep services afloat.”

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