Almost £7 million will be invested in training nurses as part of a new NHS workforce plan, the Health Secretary has announced.
Shona Robison said the funding would be directed at helping the existing nursing workforce better meet the needs of people who need care in their own homes, GP practices or other community settings.
The Scottish Government’s new primary care workforce plan emphasises the importance of highly skilled multi-disciplinary teams.
It also sets out plans for an extra 800 GPs to be recruited over the next ten years as well as an annual investment of £35 million by 2022 for an extra 800 mental health workersA&E departments, GP practices, police stations and prisons.
Ms Robison said: “A strong and professional workforce is at the centre of the success of Scotland’s health and social system.
“The investment in nurse training will mean that more patients are treated in the community and ensure the sustainability of a multi-disciplinary team approach.
“Scotland is leading the way on workforce planning and I am proud that we are the first nation in the UK to publish a plan that not only puts community care at its heart, but also helps prepare us for the expected challenges Brexit may bring for our workforce.”
Theresa Fyffe, Royal College of Nursing (RCN) Scotland director, said: “RCN Scotland is pleased that the Scottish Government has listened to our concerns and that this plan reflects the need for a new approach to developing multi-professional primary care teams.
“We welcome the recognition that district nurses, advanced nurse practitioners and practice nurses are essential in providing safe, high quality care in our communities and to the overall success of primary care services.
“The commitment to investing £6.9 million over three years for the education and training of general practice nurses and district nurses is a move in the right direction.
“We will continue to work with the Scottish Government to support the development of plans for further investment to grow the community nursing workforce, and district nurses in particular, to meet the needs of patients and shift the balance of care from hospitals and into our communities.
“We look forward to seeing the detail of the Government’s commitment to this by September.”
Dr Carey Lunan, chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) Scotland, welcomed the move for an extra 800 GPs by 2027 but warned many would choose to work part-time.
She said: “Our own research has shown an increase of 856 full-time GPs is needed by 2021.
“Any targets must be underpinned by a robust plan to deliver them and as more data is gathered about the work carried out in primary care, especially by our hard-pressed GPs, planners will need to be able to adopt a flexible approach to the delivery and resourcing of local services.”
Scottish Conservative health spokesman Miles Briggs said: “Without enough primary care doctors and nurses, patients simply don’t have the support they need in the community.
“However, this plan, once again, highlights just how little the SNP has done to address these shortfalls, and therefore how unachievable the plan to increase the number of GPs is.”
Labour’s Anas Sarwar said: “This is too little, too late from a failing Health Secretary.
“The scale of the workforce crisis has increased on Shona Robison’s watch, with 1 in 3 practices reporting unfilled posts.
“There should have been a comprehensive plan in place the day Shona Robison walked into the job - not three and a half years later - that there wasn’t, is a failure of her predecessors including Nicola Sturgeon herself.”
The Lib Dems Alex Cole-Hamilton added: “NHS staff working in primary care have waited a year for this plan. Many will question whether it was worth the wait.
“It is sorely lacking in new ideas and detail. For example, we are no closer to knowing how ministers will secure the new mental health staff we need into GP practices and A&E.”