However, the narrow scope of the report in looking at the clinical workforce in general practice leaves unanswered questions for the wider primary care workforce.
Audit Scotland has recognised that while the third part of the Government’s national health and social care workforce plan - Improving workforce planning for primary care in Scotland (published in April 2018) - set out the challenges facing primary care, it did not include projections for what this might mean for the workforce. This third part of the Scottish Government’s plan recognised the importance of the district nursing workforce in shifting the balance of care. The then Cabinet Secretary committed to working with the Royal College of Nursing to understand the requirements for sustaining and expanding district nursing and to setting out the investment necessary to grow this workforce by September 2018.
Despite RCN Scotland working with government on this modelling, the government has yet to set out plans to address the growth required to ensure Scotland has the district nursing workforce needed to provide clinical care for people in their communities.
Given the example of lack of action on this commitment, it is unfortunate that Audit Scotland took the decision to focus today’s report on General Practice and not the full breadth of the primary care landscape and workforce.
Commenting, Eileen McKenna, Associate Director, Royal College of Nursing Scotland said:
“Accurate workforce data and modelling of future demand are essential. We echo the Auditor General’s view that progress has been too slow and the public and our members are feeling the impact of this.
“Unfortunately, today’s report fails to recognise the vital role of nursing within the primary care multidisciplinary team and the impact of increasing demand, and the changes to how primary care is delivered, on the nursing workforce.
“For example, adequately staffed district nursing teams are fundamental to the effectiveness of primary care in providing clinical care in our communities. However, the Scottish Government has yet to deliver on its commitment to set out the necessary investment to grow this workforce.
“Scottish Government needs to do more to understand the impact of the changes to how primary care services are delivered on the wider workforce and to ensure that the public understands what these changes will mean for them.”