Nursing and midwifery vacancies in the NHS in Scotland have risen to the highest ever recorded level, with 2,818 posts now empty, official figures have shown.
This figure, which includes both support workers and registered staff, is equal to 4.5% of the nursing and midwifery workforce.
But certain specialties are seeing higher vacancy rates – such as health visiting, which has more than 7% of jobs empty – according to data from the NHS’s Information Services Division.
”The Scottish government can point to the increase in the number of nursing staff, but the reality…is that nurses…are coming up against vacancies”
In its latest report on the health service’s workforce, which looks at data from March 2017, the organisation noted the overall number of nursing and midwifery vacancies had jumped by more than a quarter in the space of a year.
In addition, 670 of the vacancies in March 2017 had been empty for three months or more.
Registered nurse vacancies have increased from 1,630 to 2,002 in a year.
Health visiting is short of 161 whole-time equivalent nurses (8.3% of the workforce) while paediatric nursing has 125.5 WTE registered posts empty, equal to 7.3% of its workforce.
District nursing has 168.5 WTE unfilled posts – 5.5% of its required nurse staffing levels - while adult nursing has 1,191.5 WTE jobs unfilled (4.7 % of the desired workforce), and mental health nursing is short of 301.4 WTE registered staff (4.4%).
Despite this, the overall size of the nursing and midwifery workforce has increased in the past 12 months – but only marginally, by 0.7% - from 59,372 WTE staff in March 2016 to 59,798 this year.
This includes a 0.8% increase of registered nurses - up to 43,741 in March 2017.
“The 1% cap on nursing pay is adding to the anger of nurses who are working under enormous pressure”
The Royal College of Nursing said the figures showed there were “simply too few nurses” across both acute and community services.
“The Scottish government can point to the increase in the number of nursing and midwifery staff, but the reality on the ground is that nurses wanting to do their very best for patients are too often coming up against the reality of vacancies in the workforce,” said RCN associate director Norman Provan.
“Nursing morale is low, and teams are struggling to recruit and retain the staff they need. The 1% cap on nursing pay is adding to the anger of nurses who are working under enormous pressure, constantly being asked to do more with less,” he added.
“We’re committed to training and retaining our nursing staff and earlier this year we confirmed a 4.7% increase in trainee nurses and midwives”
Scotland’s health secretary, Shona Robison, noted that NHS staff numbers had risen to historically high levels.
She said the reason for there being more vacancies was partly due to the creation of new posts following the introduction of mandatory nursing workforce planning tools.
“We’re committed to training and retaining our nursing staff and earlier this year we confirmed a 4.7% increase in trainee nurses and midwives for 2017/18 – a fifth successive rise,” she said.
She also noted that 319 former nurses and midwives had already taken up the opportunity to join a training scheme that would enable them to come back into practice.