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Scotland launches expert taskforce to tackle nurse retention

Scotland launches expert taskforce to tackle nurse retention
Humza Yousaf - Photo Credit: Scottish Government (Wikimedia Commons)

An expert nursing and midwifery taskforce has been launched by the Scottish Government in the hope of improving working conditions to boost nurse retention and expand the workforce.

The Scottish Government announced today the forming of an expert group chaired by Scottish health secretary Humza Yousaf alongside academics and representatives from the Royal College of Nursing and the Royal College of Midwives.

With nursing vacancies at record highs across the UK and many nurses choosing to leave the career before retirement, the Scottish Government said it hopes that this taskforce will prove instrumental in improving retention across the health services.

Mr Yousaf, commenting on the group’s formation, said that ‘the new Taskforce will help ensure that Scotland’s nurses and midwives are not only the best paid in the UK, but they have the best conditions and career opportunities as well.’

Colin Poolman, director at RCN Scotland, said: ‘Pay is important, but our members have been clear that it is the chronic staff shortages and service pressures that led them to vote for strike action.

‘Today’s announcement demonstrates that the voice of nursing is being heard. The RCN will hold the Scottish government to its commitment to deliver a sustainable nursing workforce.’

The RCN said it had ‘secured’ the taskforce in response to the ongoing workforce crisis and as ‘a direct result of the College’s mandate for strike action’, noting that the announcement followed a meeting between the Mr Yousaf, chief nursing officer Alex McMahon and representatives of the RCN.

This comes after the Scottish Government’s announcement of a pay offer for Agenda for Change staff for 2023-24. Although the 2022-23 pay dispute has not yet been resolved, the Government has offered nurses an average raise of 6.5% in the following year.

However, the taskforce will not look at matters that formally relate to pay or terms and conditions reform but will focus only on issues of culture and working conditions.

Areas under discussion will include addressing operational barriers, improving facilities and learning opportunities, as well as supporting the implementation of the National Health and Social Care Workforce Strategy, a statement said.

The chief nursing officer for Scotland, Professor Alex McMahon, commented: ‘The Taskforce brings the opportunity to develop a plan that will support both professions in Scotland as we consider how to improve working conditions for nurses and boost workforce numbers.’

Justine Craig, chief midwifery officer, added ‘We look forward to working with the Cabinet Secretary and other members in driving forward the ambition to build a sustainable and skilled nursing and midwifery workforce of the future; to create attractive and rewarding careers and fundamentally to allow them to deliver care to the standards to which they aspire.’

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