800 extra overseas recruits fail to reverse NHS workforce decline
4,000+ nursing posts are still vacant despite NHS Scotland recruiting additional health staff from overseas to help address the staffing shortfall
Hundreds of international nurses have been employed in Scotland to bolster the workforce, but the overall number of nurses in the NHS has decreased.
1,000 overseas staff have been employed in Scotland in past 18 months
Health boards across Scotland have hired 800 additional nurses, allied health professionals and midwives from overseas since October 2022, with 293 staff already working in the health service and a further 507 due to start at the end of the summer.
The additional recruitment means that 1,000 overseas staff have been employed in the country in the past 18 months, building on the 200 overseas recruits hired in 2022.
NHS recovery, health and social care secretary Michael Matheson said: ‘These recruits bring with them a wealth of experience and expertise and will help to ensure everyone in Scotland has access to the right care, in the right place at the right time.’
But while numbers of overseas staff have increased, the overall nursing workforce in Scotland has declined according to latest figures.
Overall NHS workforce figures fall by 0.4%
In the year to March, the NHS workforce fell by 0.4% to 156,178 whole-time equivalent (WTE) roles, following the highest level recorded to date in the previous year.
The nursing and midwifery staff group – the largest in the health service – saw a drop of 0.9% to 64,642 WTE roles in the year before March 2023.
More than 4,000 nursing posts remain vacant, according to RCN Scotland.
The Scottish Government says the figures reflect the extra staff who were brought into the NHS during the pandemic and are now leaving the workforce.
Nurse staffing gap is affecting patient safety, warns RCN chief
RCN Scotland associate director Eileen McKenna said: ‘Thousands of registered nurses are missing from teams across Scotland, impacting on the safety and quality of patient care and putting even more pressure on staff who are already working extra unpaid hours to cover gaps and going home feeling that they are unable to provide the quality of care they want.’
To fill staffing gaps the Scottish Government has spent some £170m on agency staff in 2022-23.
‘While some investment in bank and agency nursing will always be needed to cover unexpected events and ensure safe patient care, it is not the solution to the workforce crisis and the huge increase in spend is simply not sustainable,’ Ms McKenna added.
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