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Scottish minister hails success of return to practice scheme

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Nearly 200 former nurses and midwives are expected to return to practice this year, according to the Scottish government, which it said was more than double the original aim of the scheme.

Over 40 participants have already completed nursing and midwifery return to practice programmes in 2015, it said in a statement issued today.

“They will bring a wealth of previous experience with them and will be an asset to our health and social care workforce”

Maureen Watt

The scheme, given £450,000 additional three-years funding by ministers in April, is overseen by NHS Education for Scotland. Each year, up to 100 former midwives and nurses will be able to apply to have university fees of £1,500 paid in full.

Initial cohorts of return to practice students started in summer 2015 and over 40 registrants have already completed programmes this year, said the government.

It said it anticipated that nearly 200 former registrants will take up the opportunity over the financial year, exceeding a target of at least 75 return to practice places during 2015-16.

The figures were published to coincide with a visit by public health minister Maureen Watt to Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen, where students are paid a salary during their placement hours and guaranteed a job on completion. It forms part of joint scheme with NHS Grampian.

Ms Watt said: “Earlier this year we announced investment of £450,000 over three years to encourage former nurses and midwives back into the profession. This will enable around 75 former nurse and midwives to retrain each year and re-enter employment.

“There has already been significant interest in the scheme here in Grampian and across Scotland,” she said.

Over the summer, Royal College of Nursing said it was “deeply concerned” at the rising nurse vacancy rate in Scotland.

While the total number of nurses and midwives employed by the NHS in Scotland is rising, the college warned that it was not keeping pace with the vacancy rate.

It quoted latest workforce figures, showing the number of whole-time equivalent nursing and midwifery vacancies in December 2014 was 2,088 – a vacancy rate of 3.4% – compared to 1,514 in December 2013 – a rate of 2.5%.

But Ms Watt also reiterated today that the Scottish government had funded a further 3% increase in the number of nurses and midwives in training in 2015-16, on top of a 6% rise announced last year.

Meanwhile, June Brown, NHS Grampian’s associate director of nursing (modernisation), highlighted the success the board was having by working collaboratively with the university on the return to practice programme.

“We were aware of nurses who wanted to return to the profession but the location of courses and the financial challenges involved were a barrier,” she said. “By developing a local course with an employment model we are overcoming that barrier.”

She added: “We interview applicants jointly and, if accepted, we place them in a clinical area where we know there will be vacancy for them at the end of the course. During their practice placement they are paid a basic wage.

“They are also able to work on the nurse bank as a healthcare support worker to supplement any loss of salary during the course,” she said.

Robert Gordon University

Scottish minister hails success of return to practice scheme

Health minister Maureen Watt with student nurses in a training room

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