Concerns are being expressed over reports that NHS Grampian are considering paying staff in Aberdeen higher rates to aid recruitment and retention.
On the back of the reports Moray’s MSP has written to the health authority Chief Executive seeking further information and highlighting his concerns over a potential impact on healthcare provision in his constituency.
Richard Lochhead has also pointed up issues relating to recruitment difficulties in Moray where there has been a reported shortage of specialist staff at Dr Gray’s Hospital.
The Moray MSP has pointed out that a disparity in pay levels within the region’s health service could further worsen recruitment issues in the region.
When the idea of an Aberdeen Weighting Allowance was broached in December it was dismissed by Health Secretary Alex Neil, who said: “I do not believe that a high cost area supplement would be appropriate.
“I think that when you get into that you have to look at other parts of the country, for example one of the major shortages in the Western Isles is finding a maintenance engineer because of the renewable energy’s success in the Western Isles.”
However, Ruaraidh MacKinnon, Branch Treasurer for UNISON’s Grampian Health Branch, responded: “The Western Isles was a great example for Mr Neil to use as it already has an allowance that is paid to all Western Isles staff – it’s called a Scottish distant islands allowance.
“The High Cost Area Supplement for Grampian is about much more than an isolated incidence of a difficult to recruit post, it is about the huge difference in the general costs of living within the Grampian area when compared to neighbouring boards.”
The UNISON position is, however, that a pay supplement is made available to all staff working in Grampian region and not just Aberdeen.
Moving to ensure that Moray is not left behind in the issue, Richard Lochhead said: “While it is a good thing that NHS Grampian is considering ways of improving recruitment it raises a concern about how geographic pay differences might impact on Moray where we also have recruitment issues for particular specialisms.
“As a more rural constituency, Moray clearly faces significantly different challenges to that of Aberdeen, and I have serious concerns about how we will be able attract staff to Moray in the future if they are to receive smaller salaries than colleagues in Aberdeen.
“It will be essential for the board to consider staff in all parts of the Grampian region when taking a decision on the options being presented.
“In the meantime I am seeking information from NHS Grampian on the number of vacancies in Moray compared to other parts of the Health Board area.”