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RCN Scotland calls for the Scottish Budget to prioritise health and care services

14 Dec 2023

RCN Scotland is calling on Scottish government to ensure its budget, due to be announced on 20 December, prioritises health and care services and sets out investment to grow and develop Scotland’s nursing workforce of the future.

Your vote is your voice Scotland

Nursing workforce challenges remain as acute, if not more so, as when we called for urgent action in our second Nursing Workforce in Scotland Report in May this year.

In an update published today (14 December) we review progress on the 10 recommendations made in May’s report. But, as we state in the update, despite some gains, progress has been ‘much slower than needed, given the scale and severity of the workforce crisis’. 

Our update shows that:

  • Nursing vacancy rates remain stubbornly high across the NHS and social care. The latest NHS statistics show that 5,400 (7.7%) nursing and midwifery posts remain unfilled. Meanwhile 65% of care services that employ nurses report vacancies.
  • For the second year in a row the number of places to study nursing at Scotland’s universities have not been filled. This month, UCAS reported an 11% drop in acceptances onto nursing programmes in Scotland in the last year. 

Since the 2023 report’s publication in May, we have been pressing our calls for progress towards the report’s recommendations - at Ministerial Nursing and Midwifery Taskforce meetings, during Agenda for Change review, on the Healthcare Staffing Programme, on proposals for a National Care Service and on nursing student finance.  

Commenting, Colin Poolman, RCN Scotland director, said:

“We believe our recommendations are key to helping tackle the nursing workforce crisis. That’s why we’ve been lobbying hard on them at every opportunity. But, as we say in the update, the challenges remain stark. The NHS vacancy rate continues to run at an unsustainable level and social care is still facing major recruitment challenges. Two years of not hitting the target for new nursing students is a significant concern because of the impact on registered nurse numbers in the future. 

“We won’t give up our efforts to press for meaningful improvements. Last month, the Agenda for Change review process reported on its recommendations for reform for the NHS-wide pay scheme. We are calling on the cabinet Secretary for NHS Recovery, Health and Social Care to approve the funding required to implement the recommended outcomes quickly and in full.  

“We’re also calling for the Ministerial Nursing and Midwifery Taskforce to recommend actions to directly address these workforce challenges. Any recommendations must also be backed by the financial resources needed to deliver change and ensure nursing is positioned as a career of choice. The budget announcement is the Scottish government’s opportunity to show how much it values our hard-pressed nursing staff.”


Page last updated - 14/12/2023