Nursing and midwifery vacancies in NHS Scotland are at the highest level ever reported, prompting warnings that there are now ‘too few’ staff.
The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) said their members were feeling the effects of vacancies in the workforce, with low morale and the 1 per cent cap on pay adding to the sense of anger and enormous pressure staff are currently having to deal with.
The news come as a further blow to the public sector with 700 vacant teaching posts at primary and secondary schools, and Police Scotland planning to cut 400 officers by 2020.
ISD Scotland figures show as of 31 March the nursing and midwifery vacancy rate was 4.5 per cent - the highest ever reported, and 2,818.9 whole-time equivalent (WTE) posts were empty, a 27.5 per cent increase from March 2016. The number of such posts vacant for three months or more is up 51.3 per cent year-on-year to 670.6. In the same period, NHS Scotland spent £8.4 million more on nursing and midwifery bank and agency staff, paying out £166.5m.
The total number of NHS Scotland staff has risen 0.7 per cent year on year to 139,430 WTE.
RCN Associate Director Norman Provan said: “Across both acute and community settings, there are simply too few nurses. The Scottish Government can point to the increase in the number of nursing and midwifery staff, but the reality on the ground is that nurses wanting to do their very best for patients are too often coming up against the reality of vacancies. Nursing morale is low, and teams are struggling to recruit and retain the staff they need. The 1 per cent cap on nursing pay is adding to the anger of nurses who are working under enormous pressure, constantly being asked to do more with less.”
Health Secretary Shona Robison said part of the increase in vacancies is due to the creation of new posts. She added that NHS staff numbers had risen to “historically high levels” under the SNP. Scottish Labour health spokesman Anas Sarwar said the “SNP workforce crisis is getting worse”. He added: “No wonder nurses are heckling Nicola Sturgeon at TV appearances.”