Statement on expanding Scotland’s Medical Workforce 

The Scottish Government has announced that 153 trainee doctor posts will be created next year in what they are calling “the largest annual expansion on record”. This level of expansion represents a 2.3% increase above the current whole time equivalent workforce of 6570 trainees. 

£42m will be invested over the next four years to help meet growing demand in a number of key specialties including anaesthetics, emergency medicine, general practice, intensive care medicine, paediatrics, psychiatry and surgery.

Commenting, Professor Andrew Elder, President of The Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh said:

The College welcomes the commitment from the Scottish Government to expand the number of trainee posts. We are urging the Scottish Government to ensure that these additional trainee posts are distributed fairly across Scotland based on regional need, including the north of Scotland where recruitment and retention is historically challenging in remote and rural areas.

For example, data from the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges and Faculties in Scotland show that in 2022, many parts of Scotland struggled to attract quality applicants for vacant consultant posts. By focusing on training and retaining doctors in remote and rural areas, we stand a better chance of meeting the needs of patients in these areas in future.

While additional trainee posts are of course welcome, the reality is that it can take up to 16 years to train consultants – consultants being the most senior level of doctor. Meanwhile, we know that 62 is the mean intended retirement age of consultants, with 48% reaching this age in the next decade. 

It’s therefore essential that the Scottish Government and NHS Boards actively support the retention of doctors at all levels. This can include a range of things, for example, ensuring that trainees have enough time to train and that consultants have enough time to teach and support trainee colleagues. 

And while we welcome the investment that the Scottish Government has made in the wellbeing of the healthcare workforce, we are still a long way from achieving basic progress across the whole country, like ensuring that medical staff have access to hot food during nightshifts and adequate rest and changing facilities.