The health of Scottish children is at risk because of a shortage of paediatric doctors, a report has warned.

A study by the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) found that the paediatric workforce in Scotland is on the brink of a recruitment crisis and needs to increase the number of doctors by a quarter to cope.

Recruitment of consultant paediatricians in Scotland lags behind England, with the number of doctors increasing by five per cent between 2015 and 2017 compared to 8.2 per cent south of the border.

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The number of paediatric consultants must rise by a quarter or 82 doctors, according to the RCPCH. General paediatricians, who care for children from birth to late adolescence, are the biggest area of the shortfall, accounting for more than half of the extra recruitment needed.

The report calls for funding for an extra year of GP training to include paediatric and child health training for all trainees, in addition to financial incentives to attract and retain paediatricians, particularly in rural areas.

Professor Steve Turner, officer for Scotland at the RCPCH, said: “Tackling the shortage of paediatric doctors needs to be a priority.

“Unless more doctors are trained to be paediatricians today, the situation where paediatric wards are being closed will only get worse.

“The good news is that we know that Scottish doctors want to train in paediatrics in Scotland, and there are three young doctors applying for each job.”

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A Scottish government spokesperson said: "The health of our children is paramount, that is why we have more than doubled the number of paediatric consultants under this government to 355, and increased the number of paediatric nurses by more than 40 per cent in the last eight years.

"Work is under way to develop a comprehensive plan to help address some of the recruitment and retention challenges faced by our health and care sector.

"We have already published workforce plans covering the NHS, Primary Care and Social Care, and an integrated health and social care workforce plan will be published shortly.

"Of course the uncertainty around Brexit continues to pose a significant recruitment in the NHS."