CONCERNS are being raised over breakdowns in working relationships at NHS Forth Valley in the wake of respiratory consultant resignations.

It is understood that five respiratory consultants last month resigned within a short period of time at Forth Valley Royal Hospital, leading to unions expressing alarm at the situation.

A report in The Times claimed insiders have described the hospital as a "war zone" as they struggle to cope with patient numbers with allegations of a "toxic" environment.

The Forth Valley branch of UNISON, which includes healthcare workers who are not doctors, has been "alarmed" by the number of resignations while the British Medical Association has described it as a "hugely worrying situation".

In wake of the claims, MSP Alexander Stewart has called for senior management to resign while the health board said it is working closely with staff to address concerns in very challenging circumstances.

Dr Lailah Peel, deputy chair of BMA Scotland, said: "This is a hugely worrying situation, which sadly will resonate with doctors working throughout Scotland.

"Healthcare professionals looking after patients in such challenging environments need support and care themselves, otherwise we risk losing them – as would already appear to be the case here, which should be a matter of grave concern.

"No-one should be in any doubt that the pressures in NHS Forth Valley are representative of the precarious position of our NHS as a whole at the moment."

Dr Peel added concerns over bullying remaining "far too rife" in the NHS saying "there is a culture of blame and acrimony rather than open and honest learning".

A spokesperson for the Forth Valley UNISON branch explained the trade union raised issues over the resignations at a meeting last month due to the potential impact on staff and patient safely, more widely.

Mr Stewart, who has been critical of performance at the hospital over the years, said: "This has been simmering for over four years and it would now appear that the facility is at breaking point.

"Inactivity, covering-up and complacency by the chair and CEO all seem to be at play here and, as such, the current incumbents must recognise their shortcomings and for the benefit of the facility and the community, they should seriously consider their positions."

A spokesperson for NHS Forth Valley said the hospital is experiencing significant service pressures, much like many acute hospitals across the country and has had to introduce additional beds in wards for capacity.

The spokesperson said: "Senior clinical and service leads are aware of the considerable pressures faced by frontline staff and are working closely with staff to address concerns and support the delivery of care and treatment in these very challenging circumstances.

"A wide range of work is underway to reduce pressure and increase capacity across local health and social care services.

"Significant investment has also been made to provide additional staffing and leadership support at Forth Valley Royal Hospital, including during the overnight period."

Staffing levels are being monitored to address shortages and the health board explained staff may leave for a variety of reasons, including for career development.

The health board also said it is working with trade unions to address issues and has offered Mr Stewart a meeting to go over concerns.