The row over nursing vacancies intensified yesterday, with the Scottish Government being accused of having “totally mismanaged” NHS workforce planning.
Responding to Conservative health spokesman Miles Briggs, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon defended the decision to create an extra 2,600 training places over the next four years despite the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) in Scotland saying this was “not enough” to address the current staffing crisis.
Of the 3,000 RCN members in Scotland who responded to a recent staff survey, more than half (51 per cent) said that their last shift was not staffed to the level planned and 53 per cent said care was compromised as a result.
Nursing and midwifery vacancies have risen to record levels with around 2,800 posts unfilled at the end of March, a 27.5 per cent increase from last year. The RCN now wants a review of whether there is enough nursing staff to provide safe care.
Ms Sturgeon said she did not accept accusations of mismanagement and defended her government’s record on NHS staffing levels.
She said: “There are almost 12,000 more people working in our health service today than there were when the government took office.
“As I said, we are also taking a range of actions in relation to nursing students, including the safe staffing legislation that I spoke about and an increase in intakes for pre-registration nursing and midwifery programmes.”
However, Ellen Hudson, associate director, RCN Scotland, said: “While the Scottish Government has committed to increasing the number of student nurses being trained over the next four years, this is not enough to address current vacancies or to take account of the number of nurses reaching retirement and won’t guarantee staffing levels that ensure safe and effective patient care.”
Mr Briggs said: “Members of the public and hard-working nurses are sick and tired of hearing excuse after excuse from the First Minister when her government has been in total charge of Scotland’s NHS for more than ten years.”