Nursing crisis

I work as a care attendant. Until the recent general election I didn’t take an active part in party politics so the outcome in Scotland astonished me. Since then, studying the treatment of the NHS and its performance under the SNP government, it is clear to me the NHS is not safe under SNP government.

Stan Grodynski’s letter (24 June) only served to confirm that view for me.

Instead of attempting a reasoned response to Dr Arthur’s letter about responsibility for the nursing shortage in Scotland he resorts to slogans such as “negative obsession”, “fiscal straightjacket”, “socially irresponsible”, “serious voice” etc.

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The SNP has done some good things and had sound policies in its time in office but I have come to the conclusion that, UK-wide, the NHS is only safe and likely to improve under Labour.

In England & Wales, for example, the recent Frontline First report from the Royal College of Nursing pointed out that Health Education England provided fewer training places in 2014 than in 2009.

In 2014 there were 52,530 applications for 21,205 nurse training places. In 2012 there were 47,930 for 18,955 nurse training places, an improvement in places but far from adequate.

In Scotland the situation is so bad that the chief executive of Scotland’s biggest nursing agency, ScotNursing, Ann Rushforth, was recently quoted as saying: “We have never had a period like this where there just don’t seem to be enough people to do the work.” She said her agency could only fill about 40 per cent of the shifts available, compared with 90 per cent in the past.

She said the problem was down to shortsighted workforce planning, high attrition rates on courses and because many young people did not see nursing as a good career.

I don’t have figures for Scotland but the above figures for England and Wales are not consistent with that last explanation. The latest figures, released in May, show that in the quarter to the end of March, 47,390 outpatients waited more than 12 weeks before being seen, and 21,987 waited more than 16 weeks. In the quarter to March 2013 the figures were 21,524 and 5,014 respectively.

Under the SNP the share of A&E patients seen within four hours has trended downwards since 2011.

Since its introduction in 2012 more and more in-patients have had to wait longer than 12 weeks for treatment (a supposedly key target).

Targets are not everything but towards the extremes they are more and more important. The median waiting time for Scotland has increased from 35 days to 41 days over the past two years.

Bill MacDonald

Harmony Court