Prioritise nursing vacancies in NHS now, leaders urge

Audit Scotland says service ‘not financially sustainable’ as nation moves out of pandemic

Audit Scotland says the health service is ‘not financially sustainable’ and must prioritise recruitment if the nation is to recover from the pandemic

Audit Scotland says the health service is ‘not financially sustainable’ and must prioritise nurse recruitment to help recover from the pandemic
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Record nursing vacancies must be tackled if Scotland’s NHS is to fully recover from the impact of COVID-19, leading nurses have urged.

A review by Audit Scotland found the Scottish NHS is under severe pressure, is ‘not financially sustainable’ and must prioritise recruitment as the nation moves out of the pandemic.

Members want to be paid fairly and work in safe staffing environments, says RCN

RCN Scotland director Colin Poolman warned the pandemic had exacerbated pre-existing staffing problems, and that nurses needed time to rest and recover.

‘The impact of the past two years of sustained pressure on their physical and mental well-being must not be underestimated,’ he added.

‘While well-being resources that have been put in place are welcome, what our members also want is to be paid fairly and to work in an environment with safe staffing levels so they have the time to provide the level of care they would like.’

Nursing and midwifery vacancies hit a four-year high in September 2021, with 5,761 vacancies, according to the latest workforce data.

Many nurses working beyond contracted hours on most shifts

Audit Scotland’s report cited RCN Scotland’s 2021 Employment Survey, which found six in ten nurses in were thinking of leaving the profession because they felt undervalued, under too much pressure and underpaid. Some 40% of the 1,300 respondents said they were working beyond their contracted hours on most shifts.

The spending watchdog said while the Scottish Government has ambitious plans to redesign NHS services, these would take a long time to realise. It also warned remobilisation must not come at the expense of staff well-being, urging the government to ‘monitor and manage risks’.

Health secretary Humza Yousaf said the Scottish Government has given health boards £4.5 million to recruit at least 200 registered nurses from overseas by March.

Mr Yousaf said the government is also backing a campaign targeted at recruiting band 5 nurses in Scotland.

Further information

Audit Scotland report: NHS in Scotland 2021

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