Your web browser is outdated and may be insecure

The RCN recommends using an updated browser such as Microsoft Edge or Google Chrome

Long term investment needed to ensure safe staffing

Colin Poolman 31 Jan 2024

The reports of the level of efficiency savings or budget cuts that Scotland’s Health Boards are facing are extremely concerning, as are the reports of some of the approaches health boards are looking at to deliver these savings.


At a time of unprecedented demand with record A&E waits, lengthy waiting times, backlogs for treatment and stubbornly high nursing vacancies, any decisions that impact on staffing levels will bring significant patient safety risks.

As we’ve seen before, blanket approaches, such as recruitment freezes, are short sighted and will cause more harm and increased costs in the long run.  As will reducing the skill mix, replacing the safety critical registered nurse role with nursing support workers or individuals from other professions.

It’s important to remember that funding our health and social care services is a political decision. Yes, budgets are tight but the costs of not investing in nursing are significant both in terms of the long-term impact on service delivery, and the very real risk of harm to patients and residents being cared for today. Safe nurse staffing levels should be non-negotiable and cutting registered nurse numbers simply doesn’t make economic sense.

If we are to see significant improvements in staff retention, increases in the number of people choosing to study nursing, and Scotland’s NHS and social care services reaching a point where safe nurse staffing levels are the norm rather than the exception, long term investment is required.

Yes we will need to look at doing things differently. We do need to have a realistic conversations with the public about expectations, access to services and what is achievable.

Nursing staff are not afraid of innovation or change, in fact they embrace and lead this. They are also not afraid to take a stand and speak up for their patients and profession.  We cannot afford not to be investing now to protect the future of our health and social care services and the nursing profession.

Colin Poolman

Colin Poolman

RCN Scotland Director

Page last updated - 31/01/2024