Workforce shortages have a major impact on staff wellbeing and patient safety, the RCN said in a report published ahead of a meeting this week with senior politicians.
“There are simply not enough nursing staff to provide the care our population needs,” it said.
The report also warned it will take years for the NHS to recover from the pandemic, and called for practices of staff being spread more thinly adopted in extreme circumstances in the past two years not to be accepted as routine.
The RCN has urged the Scottish Government to implement recommendations for safe staffing levels voted through parliament in 2019.
Julie Lamberth, RCN Scotland Board Chair, said: “Nursing staff should not be forced to take on additional hours on health board nurse banks or nursing agencies, because they feel the need to support hard-pressed colleagues working with fewer staff than required, or to make ends meet.”
Colin Poolman, RCN Scotland Interim Director, said: “Nurses have been telling policymakers and planners for years about the problems they face due to gaps in the numbers and not having the right mix of skills in the workforce.
“The Scottish Parliament passed ground-breaking safe staffing legislation almost three years ago. Yet the Scottish government has failed to even set out a clear timetable for implementation. And the Scottish government’s workforce strategy, published recently, frankly raised more questions than it answered. It failed to set out a clear plan for how the government’s vision will be delivered."
Chief Nursing Officer, Professor Alex McMahon, said the government will consider the report’s recommendations carefully.
He said: “Our National Workforce Strategy for Health and Social Care is designed to embed a new, long-term approach, stressing the need to plan, attract, train, employ and nurture staff.
“It commits to understanding the change in demand for services as we recover, rebuild and transform our health service, and how we can achieve a more sustainable, skilled workforce which makes careers in health and social care – at all levels – more attractive.”