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'Staff planning in Scotland's NHS needs urgent improvement'

Care quality is being jeopardised by low staffing levels, say public sector auditors.
Shona Robison

Care quality is being jeopardised by low staffing levels, say public sector auditors

Staff shortages in Scotland's NHS need to be addressed as a matter of urgency, a report states.

Public spending watchdog Audit Scotland said staffing pressures are starting to affect care quality even though healthcare staff are committed to their work and patient satisfaction is at an all-time high.

Evidence from front-line staff

The agency's annual report highlighted the recent UK-wide RCN Safe Staffing Survey , in which half of respondents in Scotland said patient care had been compromised on their most recent shift because of nurse

Care quality is being jeopardised by low staffing levels, say public sector auditors


Shona Robison says the government's workforce plan will address staffing concerns. 
Picture: Paul Edwards

Staff shortages in Scotland's NHS need to be addressed as a matter of urgency, a report states.

Public spending watchdog Audit Scotland said staffing pressures are starting to affect care quality – even though healthcare staff are committed to their work and patient satisfaction is at an all-time high.

Evidence from front-line staff

The agency's annual report highlighted the recent UK-wide RCN Safe Staffing Survey, in which half of respondents in Scotland said patient care had been compromised on their most recent shift because of nurse shortages.

‘There are signs the pressures may be beginning to impact on the quality of care staff are able to provide and this needs to be closely monitored,' the report states.

The report's authors said workforce planning was in urgent need of improvement, and said front-line staff need to be involved in designing changes to the way they work. The report also highlights a need for better data collection, particularly in primary care.

'There is little reliable information on the primary care workforce, for example staff employed by general practices, such as nurses and allied health professionals, including physiotherapists and podiatrists,' the report adds.

'Listen to what nurses say'

RCN Scotland associate director Norman Provan said the college had warned of increasing pressures and called for better accountability for workforce planning.

‘We called on the Scottish Government, health boards and integration authorities not to ignore the voice of nursing staff who say there are not enough of them to provide safe, effective, high quality care any longer.

‘And, we echo the auditor general’s ask for a comprehensive and transparent approach to workforce planning that takes account of the views of staff.’

Workforce plan

The Scottish Government's National Health and Social Care Workforce Plan, published in June, sets out details of an estimated 2,600 nursing and midwifery training places over the next four years. Other measures to increase the supply of nurses include extending return to practice programmes, improved recruitment and retention, particularly in rural areas, and support to attract and retain staff.

Responding to the report, SNP health secretary Shona Robison said: ‘Our National Health and Social Care Workforce Plan sets out how we will work with partners to secure sustainable NHS staffing for the future.

‘The initial plan will be in place by early 2018, however, I expect it to change and develop in line with shifting demand and this is also something we will work with Audit Scotland on.’

Inpatient survey

The Audit Scotland report points to findings of the Inpatient Experience Survey 2016, which drew on feedback from 17,767 patients between April and September 2016.

Findings included:

  • One in five patients experienced problems such as infections, sepsis, bed sores or falls during their hospital stay.
  • More than a third (39%) felt they were not involved enough in decisions about their care or treatment.

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