The Scottish National Party has pledged to boost NHS funding, legislate on safe staffing and invest in training more advanced nurse practitioners if it wins the next election.
The party, which is seeking a third term in power, published its election manifesto – titled Re-elect – yesterday ahead of polling day on 5 May.
“This pledge is a clear sign of our commitment to our most cherished public service”
Launching the manifesto, party leader Nicola Sturgeon pledged to invest £3m to train an additional 500 advanced nurse practitioners to “bolster the skills of the profession and equip nurses across Scotland to maximise their leading role in the integrated health care of the future”.
She also reiterated that Scotland would retain the nursing and midwifery bursary and protect free tuition for students “to help attract the best people to train for nursing and midwifery roles”.
In addition, the manifesto document made pledges to introduce legislation on safe staffing.
“We have delivered record NHS staffing levels, and we will enshrine safe staffing in law – we will put our innovative nursing and midwifery planning tools on a statutory footing, and explore how this model can be extended to cover other parts of the health and social care workforce,” it stated.
“To make sure our NHS has the right skills mix, we will introduce national and regional workforce planning,” it added.
The SNP made a range of other pledges on the health service, including that if re-elected it would increase investment in the NHS by £500m more than inflation by the end of the next parliament.
“This pledge of above inflation investment is a clear sign of our commitment to our most cherished public service,” said Ms Sturgeon.
But she added that more investment in the NHS was “not enough”, saying that to “make our NHS truly fit for the future, we also need to change the way it delivers services”.
As a result, she said more resources would also flow from the health sector into social care.
“Just as we have done this year, we will transfer funding each year from the NHS to integrated health and social care partnerships to help keep people out of hospital,” said Ms Sturgeon.
“Over the next parliament, that will see an additional £1.3bn transferred into social care,” she said.
In addition, the SNP leader said the party would ensure that more of the NHS budget was spent on primary and community care.
“Nurses will welcome the SNP’s commitment to above inflation investment”
If re-elected, it would also develop a 10-year strategy to improve mental health services, backed by £150m of new funding over the next parliament, and implement a new £100m national cancer plan.
Meanwhile, the manifesto reiterated existing commitments to boost health visitor numbers and expand the family nurse partnership.
It stated: “We will continue to roll-out the family nurse partnership, providing targeted support to every eligible first time, teenage mother by the end of 2018. We will also offer the programme to vulnerable, first time mothers aged 20-24 and extend it to include more children at risk of moving into care.”
It added: “We will recruit an extra 500 health visitors by 2018 so that every child benefits from a health development check at 30 months.”
The Royal College of Nursing welcomed the NHS pledges set out in the manifesto.
RCN Scotland director Theresa Fyffe said: “Nurses will welcome the SNP’s commitment to above inflation investment in the NHS and their pledge to train 500 more ANPs.
“But as well as protecting investment, it is good to see the SNP commit to evolving services and changing to an outcomes based approach to targets,” she said.
“The SNP manifesto also promises to put staffing-tools on a statutory footing,” she said. “That should help to ensure that there are the right number of healthcare professionals with the right skills working in Scotland’s NHS.
“As a part of that, we would want to see senior charge nurses given the time to lead their teams by making their positions supernumerary,” she added.