Outcry at lack of new nurses
THE Scottish Executive was last night accused of failing to tackle the growing nursing recruitment crisis after new figures revealed staff vacancies have risen by more than 10 per cent in the last year.
According to the most recent official statistics, empty nursing posts totalled 1,253 in March compared to 1,128 last March.
Nicola Sturgeon, the SNP health spokeswoman, said the figures revealed Labour’s "abject failure" to deal with the crisis in nurse recruitment.
She said: "For the number of vacancies to jump by more than 10 per cent in one year is horrendous.
"It shows that far from getting to grips with this crisis, things are actually getting worse under Labour."
A spokeswoman for the Royal College of Nursing said it was "seriously concerned" by the rise in vacant posts.
However the Executive moved swiftly to reject Ms Sturgeon’s claims, pointing out that the number of nursing posts had risen by more than 1,100 since 1997.
Ms Sturgeon added: "It is vital that we give Scotland a competitive edge in the nurse recruitment market and tackle the crippling nurse shortages blighting the NHS.
"We should be offering extra pay on top of the current salary package to nurses in key specialities where there is a shortage," she added.
"The Scottish Executive has the power to do this tomorrow but Labour is so wedded to the UK that they would rather see Scots nursing jobs go unfilled than break with the policies of their masters in London.
"They are content to stand by and wring their hands, as the crippling nurse shortage gets worse."
An Executive spokesman countered: "The health minister, Malcolm Chisholm, has taken this issue of recruitment and retention very seriously.
"Five million pounds is being spent this year to boost nurse numbers and we are taking a whole range of measures to tackle the issue.
"These include 150 ‘return to practice’ packages for returning nurses and an increase of 250 in the number of student nurse places. Mr Chisholm has led this initiative from the front."
He added: "We have more nurses in the NHS than we had last year and in 1997 and Scotland’s overall nursing vacancy levels are very competitive compared to the rest of the UK."
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