A drive to recruit 600 more consultant doctors in Scotland will fail unless urgent action is taken to recruit and retain doctors in the NHS, according to the British Medical Association (BMA).
The campaign started at the beginning of 2003 and is due to end in the next few months.
New workforce figures show that although the number of consultant posts has increased by 273 in that time, the actual number of consultants in post has increased by only 211.
Consultant vacancies are at an all-time high (307), more than half of which have been vacant for more than six months.
Clive Davis, chairman of the BMA’s Scottish consultants committee, said doctors were working hard just to maintain current levels.
“Efforts to recruit more consultants in Scotland will only serve to fill some of the gaps, rather than increasing capacity in the service,” he said.
“The NHS is desperately short of doctors and in the short term, more must be done to retain doctors in our hospitals.”
Davis called for flexible careers schemes to create opportunities for doctors nearing retirement, enabling them to undertake less intensive work but keep them working in the NHS for longer.
Removing bureaucracy that delayed the process of filling vacant posts should be overhauled to make them more efficient, he said.