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Report warns of ‘urgent workforce challenges’ facing NHS in Scotland

Nurses and other NHS staff in Scotland are facing increasing workload pressures due to a government failure to plan its workforce, according to a new report.

Nurses and other NHS staff in Scotland are facing increasing workload pressures due to a government failure to plan its workforce, according to a new report.

fyffe
RCN Scotland director Theresa Fyffe said a robust, realistic and rapid
response was needed. Picture: John Behets

Public spending watchdog Audit Scotland said although staffing numbers were 'at their highest level ever', the Scottish Government had not adequately estimated the impact of increasing and changing demand on the NHS workforce, or skills required to meet future demand.

It warned that staff are concerned by workloads, and that 13 of the 14 health boards overspent on pay budgets in 2015-16 amid rising agency use.

Auditor general for Scotland Caroline Gardner said: 'The Scottish Government and NHS boards recognise the challenges, but urgently need to improve their understanding of future demand, staff projections and associated costs, and set out in detail how they plan to create a workforce that can meet the long-term health needs of the population.'

Confusion

The report said there is confusion over who has responsibility for workforce planning at a national, regional and local level, which could get worse because of the introduction last year of 31 Integrated Authorities, linking NHS and local authority roles.

The report by Audit Scotland looked at acute services in the first of two-part audit on workforce planning.

The Scottish National Party-led Scottish Government's health secretary Shona Robison said: 'As this report acknowledges, NHS Scotland’s staffing levels are at a record high, with spending on staff having increased by 11% since 2011-12. We’re committed to not only having the right number of staff, but also to ensure that we have the mix of skills in the right places.

'The first part of our National Health and Social Care Workforce Plan, published last month, sets out how we will recruit, develop and retain the flexible, multidisciplinary workforce we need. It shows how we’ll improve national, regional and local workforce planning. We are also committed to enshrining safe and effective staffing for our NHS in law.'

Response

RCN Scotland director Theresa Fyffe said a robust, realistic and rapid response was now needed.

Ms Fyffe was appointed this week as a commissioner on a new Health and Social Care Workforce Commission, set up by the Scottish Labour Party.

She will work alongside health figures including Royal College of General Practitioners Scotland chair Miles Mack and Unison Scottish organiser Dave Watson on issues such as staff shortages, training places, recruitment and retention of students, morale and agency spending.

Ms Fyffe said with nurse teams making up 43% of the total NHS Scotland workforce it was 'vital' that RCN voices were heard.

Scottish labour’s health spokesperson Anas Sarwar MSP  said: ‘A decade of Scottish National Party mismanagement has left our NHS staff overworked, undervalued, under-resourced and underpaid.’


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