Nurse vacancies at all-time high in Scotland

Vacancies and spend on temporary staff continue to rise.

Nursing and midwifery vacancies in Scotland continue to rise, as does spend on temporary staff, according to data released by the Information Services Division Scotland (ISD).

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The ISD report says vacancies have increased by 27.5% since March 2016, with 2,818 whole-time equivalent posts (WTE) unfilled. Around 670 of these have been vacant for three months or more.

It means the total number of vacancies are at their highest level ever recorded by the ISD, but the information service puts this partly down to 'improved recording'.

Despite the shortfall, the report shows the number of nurses and midwives in WTE posts had increased by 0.7% in the year to March 2017.

'Too few nurses'

RCN associate director Norman Provan said: 'The figures reflect the challenge faced by Scotland’s NHS. Across acute and community settings, there are simply too few nurses.

'The government can point to the increase in the number of nursing and midwifery staff, but the reality on the ground is that nurses wanting to do their best for patients are too often coming up against the reality of vacancies in the workforce.

'Morale is low, and teams are struggling to recruit and retain the staff they need. The 1% cap on nursing pay is adding to the anger of nurses who are working under enormous pressure, constantly being asked to do more with less.

'The bottom line is that if there aren’t the nurses, patients won’t receive the care they need.'

Voting power

RCN general secretary Janet Davies has asked nurses to make their voices heard in Thursday's general election, and the RCN's Nursing Counts manifesto calls for an end to the pay cap and a commitment to safe staffing levels.

The ISD said NHS Scotland spent a total of £166.5 million on nursing and midwifery bank and agency staff during the latest financial year. This was an increase of £8.4 million (5.3%) compared with 2015-16.

Around £142 million went on bank staff, with £24.5 million covering agency costs.

Historic high

The Scottish Government said staffing was at a historic high, with 3,015.4 more WTE nursing and midwifery staff introduced by the Scottish National Party, as well as record numbers of allied health professionals.

Health secretary Shona Robison said: 'Under this government, NHS staff numbers have risen to record highs – with more consultants, nurses and midwives now delivering care for the people of Scotland.

'This country has led the way in the development of mandatory nursing and midwifery workload and workforce planning tools that help health boards to plan for the number of staff they require.

'By using these tools, we can be confident that boards have information on the right number of staff needed to provide the best possible care for patients in a variety of specialties.' 

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