Long-term workforce plan needs to support staffing for safe and effective care

21 May 2019

Scotland needs an integrated workforce plan that takes account of the growing demand for services and new ways of working, says RCN Scotland.

In May 2016 Scotland’s First Minister stood before members of the Royal College of Nursing at their annual Congress and made a commitment to enshrine safe staffing in law.  Three years on the Scottish Government has delivered on their commitment to legislate and Scotland’s nurses and health care support workers are now calling for a fully funded workforce plan to support implementation

A new UK-wide safe staffing update from the RCN demonstrates the need for long-term workforce planning. The report highlights some of the nursing workforce challenges facing the health and social care sector across the four countries including.

  • More than a third of nurses registered in the UK are due to retire in the next 10 – 15 years
  • In a 2017 survey, 55% of RCN members said one or more registered nurses were missing on their last shift
  • 19% of those leaving the NMC register gave staffing levels as one of their top three reasons for leaving
  • Following the EU referendum the number of individuals joining the NMC register from the EU has fallen and the number of leavers increased. Last year only 968 people joined the register from the EU compared to 3,333 leaving it.

A body of evidence demonstrates the link between nurse staffing levels and positive outcomes for patients in the acute hospital settings. The RCN is also calling for more research into the impact of nursing staffing levels and the implications of missed care on patient outcomes in communities.

Speaking at RCN Congress in Liverpool, Theresa Fyffe, RCN Scotland Director said: “I am proud to be able to come back to Congress after three years and highlight what members have achieved in influencing and shaping the Health and Care (Staffing) (Scotland) Bill.

“But I am clear that legislation alone will not solve the staffing challenges facing Scotland’s health and social care services.  All too often, staffing decisions are based on what’s affordable and available, not what’s needed to deliver safe and effective models of care.

“Scotland needs an integrated workforce plan that takes account of the growing demand for services and new ways of working; the pipeline of nurses coming through Scotland’s universities must generate the growth required; and health boards and integration authorities need the financial resources to deliver for the people of Scotland.”

The Royal College of Nursing’s ‘Ask for More’ campaign resulted in significant changes to the Health and Care (Staffing) (Scotland) Bill at stages 2 and 3 in the parliamentary process. The legislation now addresses the majority of the RCNs key asks including:

Positive Outcomes for people and staff at the heart of decision making.

A strong professional voice ensuring nursing leaders, whether at ward, team or governance level are able to exercise their professional judgement in staffing decisions.

Informed decision making where all staffing decisions are based on robust, up-to-date data and evidence.

Responsibility, accountability, real-time action and long-term planning with processes for risk management and reporting.

Scrutiny and sanction with duties to report compliance in the NHS and care homes, right up to the Scottish Parliament

The staff to care for people across Scotland with duties on the Scottish Government to do everything they can to ensure the supply of nurses and the time and resources for CPD for nursing staff. 

Over the coming months the RCN will be working to influence the guidance and secondary legislation required prior to implementation.

Page last updated - 17/05/2021