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Nursing and midwifery vacancies at ‘record high’ in Scotland

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Vacancies in nursing and midwifery in Scotland have increased by almost 20% in just three months, the latest official data shows.  

Unfilled whole-time equivalent (WTE) nursing and midwifery posts reached 5,761, including 4,130 nurses, across the NHS in the country at the end of September, it revealed. This is a rise of 18.9% from the WTE total of 4,845 posts recorded at the end of June.

Overall, the figures represent a vacancy rate of 8.2% across the nursing and midwifery professions. They also revealed nearly one in five district nursing posts are vacant in Scotland, while school nursing has a vacancy rate of 11.3% and 9.5% of mental health nursing posts are unfilled.

The data also showed more than one in 10 nursing and midwifery posts are unfilled in NHS Highland, NHS Shetland, NHS Orkney and NHS Dumfries and Galloway. 

The RCN and opposition political parties have said the figures show the Scottish Government must increase investment in the nursing workforce, ahead of the country’s budget on Thursday.

Colin Poolman, RCN Scotland interim Director, said the ‘worrying statistics’ show the staffing crisis ‘continues to deteriorate’ but ‘the Scottish Government has the opportunity to act now’.

He continued: ‘Nursing staff have never been under greater pressure and with so many vacancies adding to this, work-related absences are on the rise and significant numbers of experienced nursing staff are considering leaving the profession…

‘The Scottish Government must fund a fair pay rise for nursing staff and fully implement the safe staffing legislation. We need to ensure nursing is seen as an attractive and rewarding career so that we can retain and recruit the nursing workforce Scotland needs.’

Meanwhile, Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex-Cole Hamilton called on ministers to introduce a Burnout Prevention Strategy that guarantees leave and improves staffing conditions.

He explained: ‘NHS staff have repeatedly warned that retention will be the biggest challenge this winter. They need new hope… We need to get serious about putting in place the workforce that the NHS needs to flourish. If Humza Yousaf can’t do that, we will also need a new health secretary.’

The results also come after RCN members in Scotland last month voted in favour of industrial action in their indicative ballot over their 4% pay rise. Nine in 10 polled said they would be willing to take industrial action short of a strike – while six in 10 would go as far as taking strike action.