NHS Shetland is aiming to boost its consultant psychiatrist numbers – as it looks to cut locum spending and save more than £450,000 a year.
Members of the board agreed at Tuesday’s meeting to advertise for a full-time consultant post.
The health board has a substantive consultant psychiatrist who has been in the job for the six months, as well as speciality doctor, and paying a locum consultant psychiatrist for 12 months.
Director of community health and social care Simon Bokor-Ingram said in a report to members that out of hours cover was being provided solely by a locum and this was not sustainable.
Locum costs for a full year were £625,000, the board heard, whereas a consultant psychiatrist would be £166,000 a year.
Members were told while a budget would need to be made for a permanent post it would provide “resilience and sustainability” across the service.
Mr Bokor-Ingram said the decision to appoint permanently would also mean the board could look to someone who had a specialism in dementia or learning difficulties. Although the job advertisement would not just be narrowed down to such people.
Finding the money to pay for the consultant was the “least worse option”, he said.
The board also heard how such a move would hopefully reduce the number of patients going to Cornhill. Locums would be needed if a doctor was to leave.
NHS Shetland is also involved in a piece of work looking at how it could work with other health boards on psychiatric care.
Chief executive Ralph Roberts thought it was the right thing to bring in a consultant psychiatrist.
“Staffing in the unit continues to be fragile and therefore trying to recruit substantive posts, in the long-term, will make it more resilient. It’s the right thing to do in the longer-term,” said Mr Roberts.
He added: “I think for the longer-term it’s the right thing to do, but it doesn’t alter the situation in the short-term and we will need to continue to review staffing levels as circumstances change in the future.”
Funding of the post is to be further discussed by the board with an advertisement to go out as soon as possible, members heard.
It was hoped the new consultant psychiatrist could be in post by the start of the next financial year.