Minister fails to recognise that underfunding has contributed to staff absence and poor performance in NHS Grampian

In a surprise response to North East MSP Mike Rumbles, the Minister for Health blamed ‘significant staff absences’ over the past year for NHS Grampian’s poor performance on waiting times and treating chronic pain disorders. In another answer to the Liberal Democrat MSP the Cabinet Secretary for Health blamed the challenges on living in a rural part of Scotland.

However, recent figures uncovered by Mr Rumbles show that NHS Grampian has been underfunded to the tune of £165.6 million since 2008/9. The Scottish Government has refused to admit that destructive underfunding of the local Health Board has been a key factor in mounting levels of staff absences and a lack of back-up resources.


Mr Rumbles said: “I’m surprised that the Minister is so willing to blame staff absences for the problems in NHS Grampian. Surly she recognises that low staff morale due to a lack of resources are contributing to the poor performance of the board.


“On support for mental health, A&E and cancer waiting times and cancelled operations, NHS Grampian is among the worst performing health boards in Scotland. That has been the situation for a long time, since the SNP came to power in fact.


“Simply blaming the crisis in our local health services on staff absences this year, or on living in a rural area, does nothing to improve the situation. Especially when other Health Boards in similar circumstances are faring much better.


“The only real difference is that NHS Grampian has suffered a long term and damaging programme of underfunding. The sooner the Scottish Government admit that and start to make amends, the sooner we can get our local NHS back on track.”




Notes for editors:


  • Parliamentary Written Question - 22 March 2018 - Index Heading: Health and Social Care - Mike Rumbles (North East Scotland) (Scottish Liberal Democrats): To ask the Scottish Government what its response is to the report in the Press and Journal on 12 March 2018 that, due to recruitment difficulties, NHS Grampian is not administering sufficient chronic pain treatment; how the situation at NHS Grampian compares with the other NHS boards, and how it is supporting NHS Grampian in dealing with recruitment issues. S5W-15246


  • Aileen Campbell: Scottish Government officials have been in correspondence with NHS Grampian over the last few months and have been advised of particular challenges within the Board in relation to delivering pain clinics. NHS Grampian has faced significant staff absences in the past year that has affected waiting times. However, recent recruitment has been successful and has enabled additional clinics to be offered. NHS Grampian are currently carrying out a review of its elective care planning review, specifically in regard to the proposal for its chronic pain services. The review is due to be completed at the end of March 2018. NHS Grampian were also given an extra funding of £4.9 million to help reduce waiting times across services, with it being up to the Board to decide where to invest this funding. We will continue to work with NHS Grampian to improve performance.


  • Parliamentary Written Question - 22 March 2018 - Index Heading: Health and Social Care - Mike Rumbles (North East Scotland) (Scottish Liberal Democrats): To ask the Scottish Government what action it is taking to address the reported shortage of (a) chronic pain and (b) other specialist staff in the NHS. S5W-15247



  • Shona Robison: It is not possible to accurately identify from centrally held data all staff working in this discipline, as ‘chronic pain specialists’ is not a recognised speciality. Due to the multi-disciplinary roles involved in the delivery of chronic pain services, this can be delivered as part of their role caring for patients suffering from e.g. Cancer, Stroke, Dermatitis. However total numbers of Consultants(including Consultant Grade Directors) (up over 47% between September 2006 & December 2017) Consultant Anaesthetists (up over 37% between September 2006 and December 2017) and Clinical Nurse Specialists categorised as working specifically in pain management (up almost 39% between September 2009 and September 2017) have increased during the lifetime of this government. The Scottish Government recognise that Scotland does experience particular recruitment and retention difficulties due to the remote and rural nature of parts of the geographic landscape. We work closely with all NHS boards to support their recruitment efforts and assist them in meeting their obligations to deliver safe and effective services. This includes searching globally, where appropriate, to recruit at all levels. When undertaking international recruitment, we encourage all health boards to make use of the UK and Scotland Only Shortage Occupations Lists (SOL) which lists all nursing occupations and certain medical specialties, including all grades of anaesthetist. When using either of these lists, Boards are free to recruit internationally without first undertaking a Resident Labour Market Test. Further, we are currently trialling new approaches to international recruitment in areas of acute shortage.


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