NHS Grampian’s finance boss has admitted the health board’s “single biggest challenge” is their continued use of agency and locum staff.
Alan Gray, director of finance at the board, told MSPs on the Scottish Government’s health and sport committee that they still have a number of shortages in “key specialities” and “other challenges” in terms of meeting demand and capacity.
The committee questioned members of NHS Grampian in the Scottish Parliament yesterday as part of its work to scrutinise every health board in Scotland.
Mr Gray told members they are taking steps to reduce this and get a more “sustainable solution” for the workforce, including a partnership with Western Australia which could see up to 100 new nurses a year recruited from the other side of the world.
He said: “We have also embarked on what I hope is a long-term strategy with Western Australia to look at how we are able to attract nurses from there.
“We see it as a long-term strategy relationship to get up to 100 nurses a year.
“That’s roughly equal to what we get from universities in Aberdeen so we see that as a very positive step.”
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Mr Gray said the board was looking at “all options” in terms of medical staffing to deal with the backlog on waiting times.
This includes a number of “new roles” such as developing a training programme for new theatre operatives who will help increase the capacity of theatres along with a new “wellbeing” role to boost capacity on wards.
He added that the establishment of a new major trauma centre in the city should also draw medical professionals to the region.
It was revealed earlier this month that north-east health bosses have signed a near-million-pound deal to help plug long-standing nursing shortages this winter.
NHS Grampian will pay Milton Keynes-based locum agency ID Medical Group £944,000 to meet winter agency nursing requirements.
It comes after NHS Grampian was forced to spend nearly £6m in the 2018-19 financial year on locum nurses.