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RCN members meet Cabinet Secretary for Health and Social Care

1 Feb 2023

RCN Scotland Board members raised their concerns about the nursing workforce crisis direct with the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Social Care.

Cabinet Secretary meets RCN Scotland Board 1 February 2023 Scotland’s Cabinet Secretary for Health and Social care, Humza Yousef MSP, heard first-hand how the nursing workforce crisis is impacting on patient care and staff wellbeing in a meeting with RCN Scotland board members today (Wednesday 1 February). 

Board members shared their personal experiences, and those of the members they represent, in a discussion on the Scottish government’s plans to address the current service pressures and chronic staff shortages in Scotland’s NHS and social care services. 

The meeting was set up as part of the proposed roadmap to resolving the current dispute about pay and safe staffing. The Cabinet Secretary was joined by the Chief Nursing Officer, Alex McMahon and the Director of Health Workforce, Gillian Russell. 

Pay negotiations between the health trade unions, employers and Scottish government are ongoing with further meetings planned for next week. The focus of today’s discussion was on the action needed, in addition to improving pay, to secure the nursing workforce Scotland needs. 

Issues around the recognition of clinical skills and expertise, workplace culture and facilities and the current reliance on agency nursing were raised. As was the need for protected time for learning and development, support for nursing staff with long COVID and the substitution of the registered nurse workforce. The Cabinet Secretary acknowledged that the current Agenda for Change structure is not working for nursing and restated his commitment to reviewing this. 

Discussion on the actions needed to address the crisis recognised that fair pay is a building block to attracting and retaining the workforce but that improvements are needed in a wide range of areas.  

The Cabinet Secretary thanked the board for their open and frank conversation and for taking the time to share their personal experiences. He said he recognised the unique contribution of nursing and the challenges facing the profession and acknowledged the need for ministerial leadership in delivering actions to address these challenges.  

Board Chair, Julie Lamberth said: “Today RCN Scotland Board members clearly told the Cabinet Secretary that enough is enough. While our current dispute with the Scottish Government is about NHS pay, it is also the unsafe working conditions, staff shortages and unrelenting demands that have brought members to vote for strike action.  

“The nursing workforce crisis is at the heart of the problems facing Scotland’s health and social care services. The people of Scotland deserve a health and care system that meets their needs and you, our members, deserve the resources and investment to be able to meet those needs.”  

Colin Poolman, Director, RCN Scotland said:  

“Action to date to tackle severe nursing shortages has not worked and increasing nursing vacancies, across the NHS and social care, underline just how much pressure is on nursing staff. Today we called on the Cabinet Secretary to take the lead on addressing the nursing workforce crisis in a sustainable way. 

 “Our significant mandate for strike action, has made the Scottish government sit up and listen. The government now need to turn the discussions into actions that you can see making a difference in your workplaces.” 

Page last updated - 02/07/2023