By Lucy Ashton
Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton has today unveiled a series of proposals to prevent burnout among NHS staff amid warnings that they are set to face the hardest winter in the health service’s history.
In the first of a series of interventions designed to offer New Hope for Health, Mr Cole-Hamilton, pictured right, is calling for a new urgent Burnout Prevention Strategy, to include:
- A commitment that new staff will be trained and recruited until safe staffing levels recommended by the Royal Colleges are met.
- New TOIL and annual leave guarantees, backed by joint government and health board guidance, to guard against overwork, ensure that planning has to place a greater emphasis in guaranteeing staff leave and provide new protections around precious time off.
- The Health Secretary to front an accountability campaign to make it clear that the fault and responsibility for the waiting times lies with the Scottish Government and not frontline staff.
The proposal for a Burnout Prevention Strategy follows weeks of warnings from NHS staff representatives that the health service is struggling to retain staff. Giving evidence in Parliament on 9th November:
- The Royal College of Nurses warned “there’s never been more vacancies in the NHS for nurses” and that its members “have never been under greater pressure”
- The British Medical Association warned that GP numbers have flatlined and are now no higher now than we were in 2013 and that “no progress” has been made towards expanding GP numbers by 800. A survey last month showed 225 whole-time-equivalent GP positions vacant across Scotland
- After undertaking its first ever workforce census, the Royal College of Emergency Medicine warned that Scotland is 130 whole-time-equivalent consultants short of safe staffing in emergency departments. The ideal consultant to patient ratio is 1 consultant per 4,000 patients, but in Scotland it is currently 1 consultant for every 6,450. Furthermore, workforce planning isn’t mitigating for 1 in 5 intending to take early retirement in the next five years and 1 in 2 intending to reduce their hours.
Alex Cole-Hamilton said: “So many NHS staff are on the brink of burnout. They have nursed us through the pandemic but in many cases at the cost of their own physical and mental health.
“Workloads are such that staff can’t take breaks and are being asked to take on too many extra shifts.
“From A&Es to GPs, we are now seeing warnings that unless something changes there will be an exodus of staff. Not only will that be bad for patients it will pile even more work on to those who remain.
“All the plans for new recruits will fall flat if their numbers are outweighed by the experienced hands leaving. Retention is just as important this winter. It is why in launching a series of policies to give New Hope for Health I am starting by calling for an urgent new Burnout Prevention Strategy.
“We need to see new measures to guarantee leave, ensure safe levels of staffing and ensure that the Health Secretary carries the burden of missed waiting times.
“After the toughest eighteen months of their careers, NHS staff need new hope and I want my party to provide that. NHS staff need to know that there is someone in their corner.”