The number of male nurses working for NHS Scotland has dropped to a seven-year low as calls come for a recruitment drive to attract more men into the profession.
Scottish Conservatives health spokesman Miles Briggs said Scots should “man up”, claiming recruitment challenges in the sector could be addressed.
His comments came after figures showed the number of male nurses had fallen for three consecutive years.
Numbers of male nursing staff increased between 2011 and 2014, when they reached a peak of 7,168.
But since then the total has dropped back, with NHS Scotland figures showing 6,924 men working in the role in 2017. This means only around one in ten of Scotland’s nurses is male.
In contrast, there are now 65,044 nurses overall, a figure that has increased steadily since 2011.
Mr Briggs said: “This is clearly a cultural problem, and probably one that exists in many parts of the world.
“But we can make efforts to change that now, to persuade males contemplating career options to man up and go into nursing.
“It would diversify the workforce, something that’s always worth doing, but more importantly help address the recruitment crisis now and in future.
“There is absolutely no reason why men can’t go into nursing, and the days of thinking otherwise are long gone.
“I hope the SNP government considers a recruitment drive of this sort, and it’s something we’d be happy to support fully.”
Health Secretary Shona Robison said a recruitment drive aimed at attracting a “more diverse workforce” into nursing was already been developed.
She said: “We are leading the way on workforce planning – becoming the first nation in the UK to publish a national health and care workforce plan.
“The Chief Nursing Officer’s review into widening participation into nursing and midwifery education and careers examined existing routes into nursing and midwifery education and career barriers that may exist, and how to address these.
“A campaign to recruit a more diverse workforce, tackle stereotypical images, and attract more people into nursing and midwifery education and careers is currently being developed.”
Brian Simpson is a former police officer who retrained and has been a community mental health nurse at the Alloway Centre in Dundee for seven months.
He said that more needs to be done to promote the profession to men and negative stereotypes remain around the job. Mr Simpson would like to see newly graduated male nurses used as role models to attract more men into the profession.
He said: “It’s disappointing to hear that numbers have dropped to a new low.
“Locally in Tayside I’m seeing a lot on social media about the #MenDoCare campaign launched by the University of Dundee to attract male nurses. There tends not to be a lot of media coverage in terms of pictures and stuff that features male nurses.
“I think perhaps a lot of guys look at that and they just don’t see themselves in these roles. The old stereotypes still exist to a certain degree and it’s still seen as being a female profession which couldn’t be further from the truth.
“The stuff I’m doing as a community mental health nurse involves problem solving and linking in with social work and doctors to support people.
“Nursing has changed – it’s not what it used to be, but that message isn’t getting across.
“It needs positive role models – perhaps getting newly qualified male nurses to talk to pupils in high schools could help, so that teenagers who are looking for a profession know exactly what it is they would be doing if they were a male nurse.”