Long-term action required to tackle NHS vacancy rates

5 Mar 2019

Latest NHS workforce statistics show that shortages of nursing staff continues to be a challenge across Scotland’s NHS.

ISD Scotland’s workforce statistics, published today, show that despite there being more staff in post, the vacancy rate for nursing and midwifery staff in the NHS continues to sit around 5%. The increase in the number of nursing and midwifery staff in post is recognition that for too long Scotland hasn’t had enough nursing staff.

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) in Scotland has been campaigning over recent months asking for more for nursing so that patients receive safe, high quality care. The RCN has previously called for legislation in each country of the UK to address staffing for safe and effective care. The ‘Ask for More’ campaign was launched in September last year following the introduction of the Health and Care (Staffing) (Scotland) Bill into the Scottish Parliament at the end of May.

The latest NHS Scotland workforce data published today shows the extent of nursing shortages across Scotland’s NHS and highlights why legislation is needed to get staffing levels right. The RCN’s ‘Ask for more’ campaign has been harnessing the power of members and the nursing voice to highlight why we need legislation and the difference it can make. 

The campaign is calling for the Bill before Parliament to recognise the importance of the professional voice and to support staffing decisions on a day to day basis. The unique role of senior charge nurses and their equivalent in the community play in overseeing clinical care and developing their team must also be recognised and protected.

The RCN is calling on members and the public to let their MSPs know how important this legislation is in advance of the stage 3 debate.

RCN Scotland Associate Director, Eileen McKenna, said:

“It remains concerning that the vacancy rate for nurses and midwives in the NHS is higher than the same time last year with a number of Boards reporting a decrease in staff. Today’s figures clearly show that it’s time for change and highlight the need to address staffing shortages in nursing teams across Scotland’s NHS.

“Our NHS hospital and community teams are stretched to breaking point and those working in care homes, are under the same pressure.

“74 per cent of people think that there are not enough nurses to provide safe care*. Evidence shows that having the right number of nursing staff with the right skills and knowledge results in better outcomes. People deserve safe, high quality care for themselves and their loved ones.

“The Bill before the Scottish Parliament is a good start and an opportunity to secure change. Work must continue to ensure that Scotland has the health and care staff it needs across nursing and other disciplines. The Scottish Government must take responsibility for ensuring a supply of nursing staff that meets demand. If we get this legislation right it will help to ensure that nursing teams have the right staff to provide safe, effective and high quality care and ensure expectations of care can be met in reality.”

*UK wide YouGov poll carried out on behalf of the RCN, 2018

Page last updated - 05/08/2019