Plans to boost nursing student intake labelled ‘inadequate’

RCN Scotland says government strategy to increase supply of homegrown and overseas nurses laudable, but fails to set out a clear plan for its delivery

The Scottish Government is considering increasing nursing student numbers under a new health and social care workforce strategy
Picture: John Houlihan

The Scottish Government will consider increasing nursing student numbers and introducing more than one intake per year under a new national workforce strategy for health and social care.

Measures to increase the supply of homegrown and international nurses feature in the strategy, which will inform efforts to recruit and retain NHS and care staff over the next ten years.

However, the Royal College of Nursing described the plan as ‘inadequate’ and vague on where new nurses and support workers will come from.

Plan scant on detail on how to tackle nurse vacancies and retain existing staff, says RCN

RCN Scotland interim director Colin Poolman said: ‘While the Scottish Government’s vision and outcomes are laudable, the document fails to set out a clear plan for how they can be delivered.

‘There is an emphasis on recruiting into the nursing profession, but scant detail on how this will be achieved to tackle the record levels of vacancies or how to retain existing experienced staff.’

The strategy, developed with local government organisation COSLA, is the first of its kind in Scotland and promises to support staff well-being, as well as boost numbers.

To encourage more people to become nurses the Scottish Government will look at increasing places on degree courses and creating more alternative training options such as Open University courses and apprenticeships.

It has already committed to increasing funded nursing and midwifery degree places to 4,837 in 2022-23 – up 8.7% or 388 places on the previous year.

Scottish health secretary says recruitment strategy designed to attract and nurture staff

The Scottish Government will also seek to recruit more nurses from overseas and will set new annual targets for international recruitment.

It has pledged to increase the NHS workforce by 1% – an extra 1,800 full-time posts – over the next five years to address a backlog in care caused by the pandemic. This is on top of anticipated annual increases of at least 1.3% in health, and at least 1.8% in social care.

Scottish health secretary Humza Yousaf said: ‘This strategy is designed to embed a new long-term approach, stressing the need to plan, attract, train, employ and nurture staff.’

Other key policy pledges

  • Publish figures on how many more nurses and other staff are needed with projections reviewed every year – this will happen for the first time later this year
  • £11 million investment in national and international recruitment campaigns coordinated by a new national Centre for Workforce Supply
  • Recruit 1,500 staff by the end of 2027 to work at National Treatment Centres and deliver more operations and elective procedures – around half will be nursing roles

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