Scottish baby and children’s unit closures highlighted

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A new report, released today by the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH), found that one in four Scottish paediatric inpatient units, and more than 40% of Scottish neonatal units, closed their doors to new admissions in the 12 months to October 2015 due to concerns over staffing.

As part of the report’s recommendations, the RCPCH is calling on the Scottish government to increase the number of paediatric trainee places.

As well as filling significant gaps in paediatric trainee rotas, this is a vital first step towards increasing Scottish paediatric consultant numbers from the current level of 310 by the estimated 84 – 110 that are needed if workforce standards set by Royal Colleges are to be met.

RCPCH Officer for Scotland, Professor Steve Turner, said:

“Service leads across Scotland identify recruitment as the main workforce pressure facing their units. Time and again we see rota gaps in paediatric services causing significant strain on the system and these figures show that staffing shortages are leading to service closures all too often. This can only be resolved by increasing the numbers coming into paediatrics.

“The number of consultants is increasing in Scotland and between 2013 and 2015 we saw the paediatric consultant workforce grow by more than 13%. The target for consultants in Scotland though is for a further 27-35% so there’s obviously still a long way to go.”

Tellingly, although year one trainee positions have been fully subscribed over the last three years, significant gaps in junior and mid-level paediatric trainee rotas remain across Scotland. According to the report, the problem is compounded by a failure to take into account higher instances of part time working patterns in the paediatric workforce, which needs to be urgently addressed.

Whilst bolstering the numbers able to enter paediatrics is vital, equally important is retaining the current workforce in Scotland. With almost 25% of paediatricians having completed their training outside of the UK, the RCPCH is also calling on the UK Government to guarantee the migrant status of EU nationals working in the NHS and to ensure that paediatrics remains on the Scottish shortage occupation list.