'This bill is a chance to make a real difference'

Alison Johnstone, MSP, Scottish Green Party

Alison Johnstone is a member of the Scottish Parliament for the Lothian region and is the health spokesperson for the Scottish Greens. Over the last year, Alison has worked with the RCN Scotland team to shape and strengthen the Health and Care (Staffing) (Scotland) bill.

At stage 2, Alison lodged amendments to the bill which are key to delivering some of the things which RCN’s members have called for through the Ask for more campaign. Her amendments give senior charge nurses time to fulfil their clinical leadership role; give staff time for continuing professional development, and place a duty on Scottish Ministers to ensure that enough student places are being offered to build the workforce which Scotland needs.

Speaking to the RCN about why she was happy to lodge such amendments, Alison said:

“This bill is a chance to make a real difference. Politicians need to work with Scotland’s health boards, integration authorities and stakeholders to address the staffing shortages within the health and the care sectors.

“The Scottish Government has an important part to play when it comes to ensuring appropriate numbers of training places for the nurses, midwives and doctors we all rely on.”
Explaining why she moved an amendment which would see senior charge nurses, and their community equivalents, given non-caseload holding status, Alison said:  

“Senior Charge nurses must be able to fully fulfil their role as a clinical leader. That means being able to have an overview of every patient in their area; managing and leading a team so that every patient receives safe, high quality care; and being able to liaise across the multidisciplinary teams to coordinate care and appropriate interventions. I don’t see how that is possible if these nurses are also carrying their own caseload. 

“So I was pleased to work with the Royal College of Nursing on this and to give a voice to their members’ concerns about the immense pressure that these senior nurses are under. This is a unique role and it deserves to be seen as such

“One thing I think it’s crucial to add is that non-caseload holding and non-clinical are very different. No one is suggesting that these nurses are non-clinical. The whole point of them not carrying a caseload themselves would be so that they have the time to continually monitor and respond to the needs of their patients - thereby improving safety - and building their team through mentoring and support ‘on the job’. That could be demonstrating something in a ward; stepping in in an emergency in a theatre, or going on a complex home visit with a community nurse.

Finally, we asked Alison why she had worked to get a section added to the bill which would secure time for CPD for staff. Her response was simple:

"If we want to improve recruitment and retention of those working in health and care, we need to ensure that they have guaranteed time to continue to develop their professional skills. People want that in any career. The opportunity to develop makes people feel valued, and it encourages and supports people to be their best.”

Page last updated - 04/08/2019