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Tiny rise in Scotland’s nurses will ‘not tackle current vacancy levels’

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The number of nurses and midwives employed in Scotland is set to rise by less than 20 full-time posts this coming year, which is nowhere near enough to address widespread shortages, warn unions.

Figures published by the Scottish government today show the number of nursing and midwifery staff is projected to increase by less than 0.01% in 2018-19 – the equivalent of just 19.1 full-time roles across the country.

“The projections set out today will not tackle the current levels of vacancies in NHS boards”

Ellen Hudson

The figures, provided by NHS boards and national bodies to help inform workforce plans, will see nursing and midwifery numbers drop in some areas, while others are predicting a slight increase by March next year.

Overall, nursing numbers will remain just under 60,000 whole-time equivalents. The projections may include proposed substantive posts expected to be recruited to over the year, so predicted increases in nursing staff will depend on those posts actually being filled.

In NHS Ayrshire and Arran there is set to be a 4.2% decrease in nursing and midwifery WTE staff – nearly 182 fewer posts with the biggest reduction among nursing support staff and newly qualified band 5 nurses.

The report from the government said NHS Ayrshire and Arran had seen “significant growth” in nursing staff in the past two years.

However, a levelling off in numbers was directly related to the closure of unfunded emergency care beds during this financial year supported by redesign and investment in community services.

“The reduction within the nursing job family reflects the need to re-balance this part of the workforce in line with financial and revenue plans for 2018-19 agreed by NHS Ayrshire and Arran,” said the report.

NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, the largest of all the boards in terms of staff numbers, will also see a slight drop in nursing staff of 0.4% – more than 67 fewer full-time posts.

However, NHS Forth Valley is expecting a 2.4% increase in whole time equivalent nurses and midwives – 67.5 more posts.

Some of the smaller areas are boosting numbers by bringing in experienced nursing staff. For example, NHS Shetland, which employed 192 nursing and midwifery staff as of March 2018 is planning to swell numbers by nine WTE staff.

“NHS Shetland plan to invest in advances nurse practitioners and mental health nurses amongst others,” said the report. “Changes in skill mix to midwifery and health visitors are also expected.”

Meanwhile, a move towards greater use of technology in the delivery of healthcare means nurse staffing levels at NHS 24 – Scotland’s national telehealth and telecare organisation – are set to increase substantially.

Nursing and midwifery roles in the service are predicted to increase by 22.6% – the equivalent of nearly 60 full-time staff.

The report showed a new cohort of trainee advanced nurse practitioners was due to start working at NHS 24 this summer.

NHS National Services Scotland, which provides support and advice to NHS services across the country, will also see an increase in nursing staff, with nearly 20 more full-time nursing and midwifery posts by March 2019.

Changes under way in Scotland include the creation of a new public health body called Public Health Scotland, which will replace NHS Health Scotland, with staff expected to move across.

RCN Scotland

Bursary ‘protected’ for Scottish student nurses in 2017-18

Ellen Hudson

But the Royal College of Nursing in Scotland said the minimal increase in nursing staff overall would not help address high levels of vacancies amid rising demand for services.

“Scotland needs more nurses. Over the past year we have seen the highest ever rates of nursing vacancies within our NHS,” said Ellen Hudson, associate director of RCN Scotland.

“The projections set out today will not tackle the current levels of vacancies in NHS boards, let alone take into account the continued increase in demand for health and care services across Scotland,” she said.

Ms Hudson said proposed new staffing legislation was a chance to address some of the workforce challenges facing nursing teams.

“Getting this legislation right can help to ensure that nursing teams have the right staff to provide safe, effective and high quality care. We need to ensure this is not an opportunity missed,” she added.

Nursing and midwifery staff projections for 2018-19 – whole-time equivalent staff in post

Organisation31 March 201831 March 2019Change in numbersPercentage change

NHS Scotland

59,786.4

59,805.5

19.1

<0.01%

NHS Ayrshire and Arran

4,348.7

4,166.8

-181.8

-4.2%

NHS Borders

1,181.5

1,204.4

22.9

1.9%

NHS Dumfries and Galloway

1,750.7

1.750.7

-

-

NHS Fife

3,540.7

3,569.9

29.2

0.8%

NHS Forth Valley

2,766.0

2,843.5

67.5

2.4%

NHS Grampian

5,264.0

5,332.4

68.4

1.3%

NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde

15,368.0

15,300.3

-67.7

-0.4%

NHS Highland

3,036.0

3,036.0

-

-

NHS Lanarkshire

5,348.2

5,348.2

-

-

NHS Lothian

9,635.6

9,595.3

-40.3

-0.4%

NHS Orkney

184.9

194.1

9.2

5.0%

NHS Shetland

192.0

201.0

9.0

4.7%

NHS Tayside

5,123.5

Not available

-

-

NHS Western Isles

353.2

353.7

0.5

0.1%

NHS National Waiting Times Centre

732.1

746.7

14.6

2%

NHS State Hospital

339.2

347.7

8.4

2.5%

NHS 24

264.4

324.1

59.7

22.6%

NHS National Services Scotland

244.6

264.1

19.5

8%

Scottish Ambulance Service

36.4

36.4

-

-

NHS Education for Scotland

48.6

48.6

-

-

NHS Healthcare Improvement for Scotland

18.0

18.0

-

-

NHS Health Scotland

-

-

-

-

 

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