The level of vacancies among NHS consultants across the country is higher than official Scottish government figures, the British Medical Association (BMA) has said.
It claims the vacancy rate for full-time equivalent consultants is 14.3%, however the Scottish government recently said the vacancy rate for consultants was 6.2%.
BMA Scotland sent freedom of information requests to the 14 geographical boards of health across the country to find their figure.
The most recent quarterly Scottish Government workforce data lists medical and dental consultant vacancies at 6.2%.
The doctors’ union says this does not take into account positions that are temporarily filled by surrogates, positions that have not yet been advertised, and positions that have sat vacant for so long that they are no longer advertised.
Dr Alan Robertson, chairman of the BMA’s Scottish advisory committee, said no improvements have been made in the last year.
He said: “Scotland consultant vacancies remain worryingly high; these latest figures are not surprising, but I am growing increasingly frustrated that the Scottish government is not disclosing the true extent of them in official statistics.
“We are in the midst of a consultant recruitment and retention crisis – this year, we have seen an increase in agency spending on locum physicians, suggesting that finding permanent staff to fill the gaps is proving a significant challenge and is cause for great concern.
“And yet we keep hearing that NHS staffing levels are at a record high.
“But repeating this over and over again to staff on the ground who are burned out, exhausted and facing burnout is not only demoralizing, but incredibly insulting.
“The staff are working flat out, doing absolutely everything they can to cope with the increasing demand that is getting out of control, but I couldn’t be clearer when I say that the fact that there are more people on the payroll than before is not means that there is enough.”
Scottish Labor health spokeswoman Jackie Baillie said: “This intervention by the BMA shows the scale of the crisis facing Scotland’s NHS.
“It is abundantly clear that the SNP has failed to attract or retain vital consultant staff and that the ramifications for the NHS are dire.
“Thousands of Scots are stuck on waiting lists as this government fails to stop the exodus of staff from our NHS.”
The Scottish Conservative shadow health secretary, Dr Sandesh Gulhane MSP, has called for the health secretary to be sacked.
He said: “Freedom of information requests should not have been necessary to reveal the true picture of the soaring consultant vacancies during Humza Yousaf’s tenure.
“Our NHS is teetering towards a deepening crisis under this health secretary. Along with his predecessors, Humza Yousaf’s nefarious workforce planning is at the heart of many of the frontline problems in our health service.
“Our already over-the-top dedicated consultants simply cannot meet the demands placed on them while 900 positions remain unfilled.
“This staffing shortage has a devastating side effect on patients coming to A&E or waiting for vital treatments and procedures to be performed.
“With these shocking statistics, plus over 6,000 nursing vacancies, it’s no wonder waiting times on the NHS in Scotland are so long.
“The ball stops with Humza Yousaf and he must be fired immediately.”
A Scottish government spokesperson said: “NHS Scotland’s staffing is at record high levels with medical and dental consultants up 65.9% since 2006.
“We are determined to further increase the NHS workforce, with our Recovery Plan backed by more than £1 billion.”