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Scotland commits to training 2,600 extra nurses to tackle future shortage

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An additional 2,600 nursing and midwifery training places in Scotland will be created over the next four years as part of national workforce plans published today by the government.

In the country’s National Health and Social Care Workforce Plan the Scottish government noted that if no action was taken the country would continue to face a shortfall of nurses and midwives until at least 2021.

”Our projections show we will need to increase numbers… so I’m pleased to be able to make the commitment to 2,600 additional training places”

 Shona Robison

However, based on projections, it stressed that other measures – such as a focus on return to practice programmes - would be required, in addition to the extra training places to keep up with increasing demand for staff.

It said the “critical years” for the projected shortfall were between 2017 and 2020 – because the extra nurses would not complete training in this time due to the three years required at university.

Based on projections, the “most likely” scenario is that employers will need around 62,400 nurses and midwives in the workforce by 2021, said the plans. This is an increase of around 2,600 staff compared to the size of the current workforce.

The additional training places announced today will include 1,600 new places – on top of the 1,000 extra places already planned over the coming years.

The government said a package of other measures would also be introduced.

This includes extending and increase funding for programmes that allow nurses to return to practice and improving recruitment and retention – which the government estimates will lead to a further 1,300 nurses and midwives working in the country.

Today’s proposals are focussed on the NHS and a follow-up plan looking at social care is due to be published in the autumn, followed by another for primary care at the end of 2017.

“On the face of it, the increase doesn’t cover the existing 2,800 nursing and midwifery vacancies in the NHS in Scotland”

Shona Robison

Scotland’s health secretary Shona Robison said that while the NHS workforce was at a record size, demand for health and care services was expected to continue.

“This first plan sets out how we intend to recruit, develop and retain the multidisciplinary and flexible workforce we need to continue to deliver high quality healthcare for the people of Scotland,” she said.

“Nursing and midwifery is by far the largest staff group in the NHS. Our projections show we will need to increase numbers in future years, so I’m pleased to be able to make the commitment to deliver an estimated 2,600 additional nursing and midwifery training places by the end of this parliament,” she added.

The Royal College of Nursing in Scotland said it welcomed the increase in training places but that much detail was missing in the plan, including on funding.

“On the face of it, the increase doesn’t cover the existing 2,800 nursing and midwifery vacancies in the NHS in Scotland,” said RCN Scotland director, Theresa Fyffe.

“The plan doesn’t set out how much money is going to be invested in growing the nursing workforce. And more information on the assumptions used in reaching the figure of 2,600 nurses and midwives is needed,” she said.

“Even the best laid plans depend on nursing being a profession people want to join and stay in. Unless nurses are paid fairly for the work they do and get the development they need to continue to do their job well, nurses will continue to leave,” she added.

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