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Question mark over extent of doctor shortage in Wales

Vacancy levels do not match NHS Wales’s doctor shortage claims or doctors’ experience, doctors’ leaders say

Ingrid Torjesen

Friday, 06 September 2013

Doctors’ leaders in Wales are questioning the number of medical vacancies that NHS Wales says exists in Wales after a Freedom of Information request showed only a small number of medical vacancies.

NHS Wales has argued that hospital reconfiguration is required because of the difficulties in recruiting doctors.

However information requested under the Freedom of Information Act by BMA Cymru Wales revealed that in May 2013 there were just 134 unfilled medical and dental posts in Wales.

Of the 134 vacancies, 35 were in emergency medicine, nine were in general practice and 12 were in paediatrics.

BMA Welsh secretary Richard Lewis said the figures did not reflect the reality members faced on the frontline.

“The current statistics that we have obtained from the Welsh government that were collected by health boards do not seem to correlate with our members’ understanding of what vacancies are like on the ground,” he said.

“I don’t think the recruitment situation has improved that much in recent years – I think we are in a status quo situation.”

Dr Lewis said that there was “a lack of consistency in what a vacancy is”.  

“We believe there is a lot of leeway in the vacancy definition that allows health boards to interpret it differently and that makes analysis and interpretation very difficult. It also makes it very difficult for forward planning to address the shortages.”

Dr Lewis added that if the figure was correct it undermined one of the arguments justifying reorganisation of hospital services - doctor shortages. The Welsh government has previously said reorganisation was needed to help recruitment.

Source: BMA news

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