ALL three general surgeons at the Gilbert Bain Hospital are due to retire within the next five years – leading to officials creating a fourth post to aid succession planning.
The creation of the new post was approved at a meeting of the NHS Shetland board on Tuesday morning.
Director of nursing and acute services Kathleen Carolan warned that things would “fall off a cliff edge” if there was no succession planning in place.
A report to board members said that increasing the number of consultants at this point would give the incoming surgeon time for further training and “good local support from the current post-holders before they retire”.
To partly offset the additional cost, the current weekend consultant surgical locums would be discontinued while two of the three current post holders would see their workload reduced to allow them to also participate in voluntary work overseas.
The fourth surgeon post comes with a Scottish Government endorsed Global Citizenship component, meaning that there is an expectation the post holder would spend 10 weeks of the year in humanitarian type work, in clinical, academic or research areas.
The report said that support from NHS Grampian has allowed the current three general surgeons to maintain a “very broad-based general surgical practice” in Lerwick.
Projections show that as of August next year the net additional cost of having a fourth surgeon would be in the region of £33,300 a year.
Director of nursing and acute services Kathleen Carolan told Tuesday’s meeting that a decision was previously made in 2015 not to have a fourth post because of there was not enough demand in the hospital.
However, with a rejigged working pattern, an extra post was now an option while looking at succession planning.
Director of human resources Lorraine Hall said that NHS Shetland would not be the only island health board looking for this type of employee.
“Anything we can do to get a slight step ahead will be very welcome at this moment in time,” she said.
Questions were raised about the possible extra costs which may come with the post, such as in administration.
But Carolan stressed that doing nothing would see the health board “fall off a cliff edge” and have to rely on expensive locums.
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