One company is offering an incentive of £500 for nurses to sign up to work in private care homes in the Highlands.
The initiative has prompted fears that the attractive incentives could be offered nationwide and leave the NHS across Scotland with a staffing crisis.
The latest recruitment drive by Newcross Healthcare Solutions, which pays £25 an hour plus holiday pay, has sparked concern from Labour MSP Rhoda Grant, who claims NHS nurses will be attracted.
She said: “Staffing shortages are being reported across the whole of Scotland and it is only a matter of time before other agencies will be offering enhanced terms and conditions to attract NHS staff. If it is happening in the Highlands, it may well begin to happen across other Scottish health boards.
“I can understand why many NHS nurses would see the employment offer from Newcross Healthcare to work in private care homes an appealing option, given that the company are offering a ‘golden hello’ and potentially better pay and conditions than many nurses will currently be receiving from the NHS, working on lower pay, unsociable shift patterns and also with very little chance of seeing a pay rise over the next few years.
“Many NHS staff work long hours, and for those who have other care commitments, such as young or elderly family members, a move to the private sector would make sense for them “The NHS is already overstretched, underfunded and under pressure, particularly here in the Highlands, and the potential loss of these staff to the private sector would be another blow to our health service in the area.”
The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) in Scotland said the situation relating to “golden hellos” was worrying.
Norman Provan, RCN associate director, said: “The fact that this private company is offering a ‘golden hello’ is evidence that the independent sector is also struggling to recruit the staff it needs to provide safe and effective care.
“The situation is a result of growing patient demand, cuts to the workforce made over the period 2009 to 2012 and to the number of nursing students recruited in 2011-12 and 2012-13, and high rates of retirement from the nursing workforce. This ‘boom and bust’ approach to Scotland’s nursing workforce simply does not work.”
A spokesperson for Newcross Healthcare said: “Newcross provides much-needed jobs and meets demand in rural areas for nurses, healthcare workers and support workers, in a variety of settings, many of which are care homes and private residences.”
The Scottish Government said it was aware of the agency offering the £500 incentive to sign up. Health Secretary Shona Robison said: “NHS Scotland offers nurses a chance to work in an organisation that is a world leader in the field of healthcare. We are confident that the many rewards for working in NHS Scotland will continue to encourage nursing staff from all over the UK and the world to seek out a career in NHS Scotland.”