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Scottish government increases nurse numbers

The number of student nurses and midwives entering degree programmes funded by the Scottish government is to increase by close to 7% this year.

A total of 2,698 students will begin their training in October 2014, a 6.6%  increase on the 2013/14 figure of 2,530.

The number of student midwives will increase from 140 to 160, a 14.3% increase, and the number of new children's nursing students will increase from 203 to 245, an increase of 20.7%.

Health Secretary Alex Neil said: “It is important that we continue to train the appropriate number of nurses and midwives to be able to provide the best possible care in our health service in the future. That is why we are again going to increase the intake of nursing student.

“This decision is based on careful strategic planning, using information from NHS board workforce planning projections, evidence from Scotland's groundbreaking nursing and midwifery workload and workforce planning tools, and working closely with key stakeholder groups.

“Staff are the lifeblood of the NHS and I look forward to the latest intake of student nurses and midwives qualifying and providing high quality care to patients across Scotland.”

'Seriously understaffed'

Adult nursing student places will increase by 5% from 1,727 to 1,813.

Royal College of Nursing (RCN) Scotland director Theresa Fyffe said:"This latest announcement, for student nurses starting their course in September this year, is further welcome news that the government is listening to our concerns about the shortage of nurses in the workforce and the problems this is causing now and storing up for the future.

"While there has been a modest increase in nursing staff numbers in recent months, there is no doubt among our members that many areas are seriously understaffed.

"The growing gap between the number of nurses health boards say they need and staff actually in post clearly shows that health boards are struggling to find nursing staff - and this latest increase in the number starting their nursing course in 2014 will not help the current difficulties of recruitment, as they will not complete their course for three or four years. 

"What we need is less short-termism and better long term workforce and budget planning by government so we avoid such problems in the future. The Government is reviewing the process for deciding student numbers for the future and we are engaged with this work, which is making progress.

"However, we firmly believe it must look at the whole picture of health and social care delivery across Scotland, as well as career progression within our NHS, to make sure we consistently have the right number of nurses coming into the profession and then have the right number of nurses with the right skills and expertise working at the right level so we don't short-change the people of Scotland.”

Director of the Royal College of Midwives Scotland, Gillian Smith, said: "It takes three years to train a midwife and therefore the students we put in to the system just now will be ready for practice by 2017/18.

“This is when we expect to see a large number of midwives retiring based on the current age profile of those in practice at present. However more work needs to be carried out to more accurately predict what the gap might be and we look forward to engaging with the Scottish government in a focussed way to ensure we have the right number of midwives to provide a safe service for the families our members look after.”