Long term action required to ensure Scotland has the nursing workforce it needs

1 Dec 2020

The global pandemic has brought into sharp focus many of the issues facing Scotland’s nursing workforce. Issues that the Royal College of Nursing has been highlighting for years.

New statistics published today (1 December) on the NHS Scotland workforce show that the number of vacant nursing and midwifery posts remains a significant concern.

The figures show that over five percent of NHS nursing and midwifery posts were unfilled at 30 September 2020. This is despite the third year nursing students, who joined the workforce to support the pandemic response, being included in the figures. 

Previous social care reports show the scale of nursing vacancies in this sector is also significant with 45 per cent of care home services for older people reporting nursing vacancies.  

The Scottish Government’s announcement of a £500 one-off bonus is welcome recognition of the  outstanding efforts of health and social care staff in responding to COVID-19 but it does not help to address the long term issues that impact on recruitment and retention of nursing staff.

The implementation of Scottish Government’s Health and Care (Staffing) (Scotland) Act, the legislation designed to support safe staffing levels in Scotland’s NHS and care homes was paused in response to the pandemic. The RCN is calling for Scottish Government to set out a clear timetable for implementation of the Act and to agree a substantial pay award that values the contribution of nursing staff to the health of the nation.

Eileen McKenna, Associate Director, RCN Scotland said: “The pandemic has impacted on all aspects of nursing. No member of nursing staff has been left untouched across our health and care services. We know the positive impact effective nurse staffing levels has on outcomes for patients and residents, and the dangers when they fall too low. 

“We need to ensure Scotland has the nursing workforce it needs; that nursing is seen as an attractive and rewarding career and that policies and working conditions support nursing staff to stay in this safety critical profession.”

Page last updated - 03/12/2020