Where are most severe nursing shortages in Scotland?

Picture: Ian Georgeson
Picture: Ian Georgeson
Share this article
Have your say

The number of empty nursing posts in Scotland has risen by 280 in just three months despite work to stem the shortages becoming a key political issue.

Figures show that 2,158 nursing vacancies were recorded at the end of June - up from 1,878 counted on March 31.

It takes four years to train a nurse. Sadly school leavers these days don’t seem to want to be nurses

Ann Rushforth

The rise of 280 empty nursing posts comes after some progress was made in recruiting permanent staff and will make frustrating reading for the Scottish Government and a number of struggling boards across the country.

The figures come just weeks after Health Secretary Shona Robison announced that 650 new nursing staff will be recruited over this year with 1,000 new NHS Scotland staff due to be hired in total.

That followed pre-general election pledges by both Scottish Labour and Scottish Conservatives to hire 1,000 new nurses.

Ms. Robison said, in August, that some of the new nurses due to start had already been hired nut nursing unions queried where the extra staff would come from given the ongoing shortages,

The figures show that number of permanent adult nurses working in Scottish hospitals rose by 12 between March and June.

The difficulties in recruiting nurses in certain pockets of the country are well documented, with the Highlands general struggling to fill permanent posts due to lower population and difficulties in tempting people to relocate north.

NHS Highland had 125 nursing vacancies at the end of June - up from 95 at the end of March.

Separate figures show that NHS Highland has the highest spend on agency nurses to fill posts - at £9.8m in 2014/2015.

NHS Grampian has long had problems recruiting in the north east, where local wages driven by the oil industry are far higher than can be offered by the health service.

Research has shown that the lowest paid NHS worker in Grampian, taking home around £950 a month, is an estimated £220 worse off a month than colleagues in Tayside and Highland.

This is when taking into account the higher cost of rent, bus travel and council tax in the economy.

A huge recruitment drive at NHS Grampian has seen the board take on almost 200 new nurses, new chief executive Malcolm Wright announced last month.

These appointments,however, have not yet filtered into the latest official staffing figures.

In March, NHS Grampian were short of 248 adult nurses and in June - the latest available data- the number of empty permanent posts did come down by 37.

At NHS Lothian 58 adult nursing vacancies were recorded in June - down considerably from 88 counted in March.

And in NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde - the countries largest health board, there were 352 vacant adult nursing posts - which had gone up from the 312 recorded three months before.

Calls have been made across Scotland for trained nurses who have left the profession to return to the wards.

Boards, such as NHS Grampian, are offering refreshers courses while also trying to attract international staff who may end up in the north east due to the oil and industry.

In May, Scotland’s biggest nursing agency warned there are not enough qualified nurses in Scotland to fill rota gaps.

Ann Rushforth, ScotNursing chief executive, said back in May that if qualified nurses who had left hospital work did “just one shift a month”, a significant difference could be made to the staffing strain.

She said: “It takes four years to train a nurse. Sadly school leavers these days don’t seem to want to be nurses. They want to be veterinary nurses and supermodels.”


Board/ total adult nursing vacancy rate June 2015

NHS Borders 13.9

NHS Fife 71.5

NHS Lothian 58

NHS Highland 79.5

NHS Grampian 237.5.

NHS Orkney 1

NHS Tayside 124

NHS Shetland 9.2

NHS Ayrshire and Arran 5.2

NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde 352.7

NHS Lanarkshire 119.6

NHS Forth Valley 50.2

NHS Dumfries and Galloway 71.1

Total of adult nurses needed in Scotland 1,237

Total nursing vacancies = 2,158