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RCN Scotland issues winter warning

5 Sep 2023

RCN Scotland is warning that the extreme pressures faced by Scotland’s health and social care services are set to continue this winter.

NHS winter crisis Statistics published today (Tuesday 5 September) show that nursing vacancies across NHS Scotland remain stubbornly high, with over 5,600 nursing and midwifery posts unfilled. They also show that almost 2,000 people who were ready to be discharged were delayed in hospital during July, an increase of 9% since June.

Commenting ahead of the First Minister setting out the programme for government, Colin Poolman, RCN Scotland Director, said: 

“The figures published today paint a worrying picture for the winter ahead, for patients and staff.

“Today’s programme for government announcement did not provide much relief or hope for our hard-pressed nursing staff working in health and care services as winter approaches. 

“Last winter was recognised as the worst on record for NHS services. Lack of capacity in the community health and social care sectors were key factors, with the number of patients delayed in hospital causing lengthy waits in emergency departments and a lack of preventative support in communities resulting in more people being admitted to hospital. The latest workforce statistics published today show just how much pressure our community nursing teams are under with almost one in 10 posts vacant.

“A lack of routine COVID-19 testing and new variants circulating means we don’t know what the full impact of COVID will be, making winter planning all the more challenging. This puts a lot of pressure on the success and coverage of the COVID and FLU vaccination programmes to protect the public and staff. And even with that, a cold snap in the winter could ramp up the pressure on services and staff to record levels.

“Our health and care services deserve more than having to rely on short-term fixes. Persistently high vacancy rates mean that nursing staff can’t run fast enough to even stand still. Every single nursing post that is vacant means the staff who remain have to pick up the slack. They also have to do their own job. The critical situation across Scotland’s acute hospitals will not be solved until the social care and community sectors have the right numbers of staff, with the right skills, in the right place. This means there is a lot riding on the Ministerial Nursing and Midwifery Taskforce. The Scottish government must make sure that the Taskforce delivers long-term, sustainable, fully-funded solutions to retain existing nursing staff and recruit the workforce of the future.”

Page last updated - 03/02/2024