Scots NHS '˜staffing crisis' as thousands of nurses quit

The number of nurses leaving the NHS in Scotland has reached a new high prompting fears of a 'staffing crisis' in hospitals.

Shona Robison, Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport. Picture: Andrew Cowan/Scottish Parliament
Shona Robison, Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport. Picture: Andrew Cowan/Scottish Parliament

The news was among a raft of gloomy NHS statistics today which show longer waits in hard-pressed hospital emergency departments and fresh concerns over mental health treatment delays.

More than 4,300 nurses quit the service last year, it has emerged, while long-term consultants vacancies are also on the rise.

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Health Secretary Shona Robison today insisted the NHS workforce in Scotland is at "historically high levels."

But the figures released today show there were 4324 nursing and midwifery departures from the NHS north of the border in 2017/18, confirming an increasing trend from 2011/12 when 3100 left.

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Tory health spokesman Miles Briggs said: "Nurses and midwives are leaving in record numbers, those remaining are more likely to be off sick, and spending on expensive agency and bank nurses continues to spiral."

“Hardly a week goes by when the SNP’s shocking management of the NHS isn’t exposed."

BMA Scotland’s Consultants committee chairman Mr Simon Barker said: “The lack of substantive progress that is being made in filling these vacancies and ensuring that Scotland’s NHS has the staff it needs is increasingly concerning."

There were also 2,812 nursing and midwifery posts unfilled in the NHS in March, along with 422 vacancies for consultants, while the number of consultant vacancies remaining unfilled for six months or more increased 23.7% to reach 253.

A&E waiting times are also back on the downward slope, as performance against the 4-hour waiting time target fell again to 92.3% in April. The figures published by ISD Scotland show 2186 patients waited over 4 hours. 116 patients waited over 8 hours.

Mental health services waits for young people also continue to fall below targets. Just 71% of children who started their treatment during the quarter ending March 2018 did so within the 18-week waiting time target, down from 83.6% at the same point last year.

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Liberal Democrat health spokesman Alex Cole-Hamilton said: "The failure of ministers to improve mental health services is having a devastating impact on young people and their families."

But Ms Robision said NHS Scotland’s workforce has increased by over 10% under the SNP, including a rise by almost 500 in the past year alone to nearly 140,000.

“To help meet the demands the NHS faces we’re putting record investment into our health service and legislating to ensure we have the right staff with the right skills in the right place," she said.

Ms Robison said the A&E waits were down to the busiest April in since 2011.

"Thanks to the fantastic efforts of NHS staff, nine out of 10 people were seen within four hours," she said.

“Scotland’s core A&Es have been the best performing in the UK for more than 3 years."