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RCN expresses serious concerns about National Care Service Bill in letter to new minister

3 Apr 2023

Urgent meeting with Maree Todd MSP requested to raise concerns about lack of detail in NCS Bill

Social Care

RCN Scotland has written to Maree Todd MSP, the new Minister for Social Care, Mental Wellbeing and Sport, to raise serious concerns about the National Care Service Bill and request a meeting to discuss these concerns and the pressing need to tackle severe nursing workforce shortages in social care and community health. 

The letter welcomes the delay to the National Care Service Bill and the comments made by the First Minister, about reviewing the plans and engaging further with stakeholders, during the SNP leadership campaign.  

While we share the desire to improve the quality and consistency of social care and health services, it is unclear how the current Bill will achieve this objective or address the serious challenges within a sector that is in crisis. The Bill lacks fundamental details around how the NCS will operate in practice, how it will operate alongside the NHS or even a clear definition of what functions the NCS will be responsible for. 

With more than 1,300 fewer registered nurses in care homes for adults since 2014, 60% of care services reporting vacancies and over 1,700 community nursing posts unfilled, improving services cannot be achieved without increasing investment, tackling the workforce crisis and recognising the increasing need to deliver complex clinical care within community and care home settings.  

The letter also highlights the role the RCN is playing on the Mental Health and Wellbeing Workforce Advisory Group and welcomes the development of a mental health workforce action plan. With a vacancy rate of 9.5% in mental health nursing, and fewer students beginning mental health nursing courses than the recommended intake, it is clear that action is needed to increase retention and ensure appropriate numbers of registered mental health nurses enter the workforce in future. The letter also calls for this work to be linked to the work of the new Nursing and Midwifery Taskforce.  

Eileen Mckenna, RCN Associate Director Nursing, Policy & Professional Practice, said: 

“We welcome the Minister to her new role and have requested a meeting to discuss our serious concerns about the National Care Service Bill. We are calling for the Scottish Government to take time to engage with stakeholders - including staff working at all levels within the social care and community health sectors - and to develop detailed plans for reform prior to taking forward primary legislation.  

“Rather than simply pushing through expensive and disruptive structural overhaul without a clear understanding of how to fix the current problems facing the sector, Ministers need to focus now on tackling the workforce crisis in social care and community health. Services must have the right numbers of staff, with the right skills, in the right place and that needs to start with increased investment and improving pay, terms and conditions in the sector.”

Page last updated - 01/09/2023