NHS Lothian sees staff vacancies rise by 200% in a year

The number of nurses and midwives leaving one of Scotland's largest health boards has risen by 68 per cent over the last five years.

The health board has more than 500 nursing and midwifery vacancies as opposed to 178 at the same time last year

A total of 659 nursing staff left NHS Lothian in 2012-13 which has now risen to 1,108 for the 2016-17 period.

At present the health board has more than 500 nursing and midwifery vacancies as opposed to 178 at the same time last year – three time as many. A rise in the number of health staff over the age of 55, with 16 per cent in that age range, means that the number of vacancies will increase once they retire. The information came to light in a recent written question by Scottish Conservative MSP Peter Chapman.

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Norman Provan, of the Royal College of Nurses Scotland, said nurses are working “under enormous pressure” on the back of a prolonged pay freeze.

He said: “Nurses and health care support workers wanting to do their very best for patients are working under enormous pressure, constantly being asked to do more with less. The prolonged pay freeze, workload challenges and the reality of vacancies in the workforce, are leaving nursing staff demoralised with some choosing to leave.

“To avoid an even greater shortage of skilled nurses, we need to find new ways to make nursing an attractive career choice. Scotland needs a robust workforce strategy that futureproofs the nursing workforce across hospitals and communities. The proposed safe staffing legislation provides an opportunity to get workforce planning right, and to safeguard high quality care for generations to come.”

The number of nursing and consultancy vacancies in Scotland has reached a record high at the end of June last year as official figures revealed a shortfall of more than 470 consultants and 3,200 nurses and midwives.

Professor Alex McMahon, director of nursing, midwifery and allied health professionals, NHS Lothian, said: “In common with many health boards across the UK, we face workforce challenges and have a programme of initiatives to address them. We have a continual nursing and midwifery recruitment process in place throughout the year. Our current vacancy level is around 5 per cent of our total workforce. As well as our generic recruitment, we host recruitment sessions for our main hospital sites and also seek to recruit and train nurses in the community in health visiting and district nursing.”

Shadow health secretary Miles Briggs MSP said: “It is alarming there has been a 68 per cent increase of nurses and midwives leaving NHS Lothian over the last five years. More needs to be done to incentivise them to stay, otherwise patients and the staff left behind will be the ones who suffer the consequences.”