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Scottish staffing issues hidden behind sound bites, says RCN

There has been an increase of 4.2% (5,506.8 whole time equivalent (WTE)) in the total NHS Scotland workforce since June 2011, however a Royal College of Nursing Scotland chief argued this is outstripped by current demands.

NHS Scotland had a headcount of 160,635 staff, equivalent to 137,420.7 WTE on 30 June 2015, increases of 1.0% and 1.1% respectively since 30 June 2014, according to research released today from Information Services Division Scotland.

Of the overall increase in staff of 1,540 WTE between June 2014 and June 2015, the biggest increase was seen in nursing and midwifery (611.4 WTE).

However, these figures may be misleading, Theresa Fyffe, Royal College of Nursing (RCN) Scotland director, said: “On the face of it, this is good news, but we know that the demands on our health services are outstripping this latest increase.

“Hiding behind sound bites such as there are more nurses now than a few years ago is really not good enough, when the latest NHS staff survey shows that only a quarter of nurses and midwives (25%) think there are enough staff to do their job properly,” Fyffe added.

The figures published today also show that vacancy rates have been increasing since 2011, RCN Scotland said. There are now more than 2,250 WTE nursing and midwifery posts vacant, giving us a vacancy rate of 3.7% (up from 3.1% in June last year). 

Over 600 WTE posts have been vacant for more than three months and between 2009 and 2012, health boards cut over 2,000 nursing jobs and the government cut training posts for nurses and midwives by over 20%. 

This was short-sighted and although the government is trying to address this, we're still left with a very real gap, with not enough nurses to fill it.  If the NHS is to flourish into the future, we need to take a long, hard look, with the public, at how we deliver services differently to put the NHS workforce on a sustainable footing to ensure quality care for patients into the future.”