The number of student nurses in training in Scotland has hit its lowest number in six years, according to analysis of education statistics by the Scottish Conservatives.
Based on latest data from NHS Scotland’s Information Services Division, the party found there were 9,661 student nurses across Scotland last year, a drop of more than 500 from the previous year.
It added that, while the current number of first-year entrants had increased from last year to 2,911, it was still the second lowest since the turn of the millennium.
“Quite why the SNP has presided over a system where fewer are being trained up is a mystery”
The Scottish Conservatives said the analysis was timely because health boards were increasingly being forced to turn to overseas recruitment and temporary staff to plug workforce gaps.
Last year, it said bank and agency nurses filled nearly eight million hours on Scotland’s wards, at a cost of £127m.
Scottish Conservative health spokesman Jackson Carlaw said: “With an increasing and ageing population, there is going to be more pressure on nursing resources in coming years.”
He said it was a “mystery” why the government had “presided over a system where fewer [nurses] are being trained”.
“The Scottish Government needs to improve its forward planning to ensure we are developing the number of nurses required for all the future challenges we know are coming down the tracks,” he added.
In a response, a spokeswoman for the Scottish Government said: “We have supported national initiatives that improve recruitment and retention, and in recent years have seen an increase in the number of students completing the three-year course – from 1,906 in 2009-10 to 2,226 in 2013-14.
“In the last year alone, over 1,000 extra whole-time equivalent qualified nurses and midwives have started working in Scotland’s NHS,” she said.
“We know that to increase this further we must continue to train the appropriate number of nurses and midwives to be able to provide the best possible care for the future,” she added.
ISD Scotland figures showing number of student nurses:
- 2013-14 – 9,661
- 2012-13 – 10,189
- 2011-12 – 10,638
- 2010-11 – 10,384
- 2009-10 – 9,936
- 2008-09 – 9,499
- 2007-08 – 9,660
ISD Scotland figures on number of nursing student new entrants taken on each year:
- 2013-14 – 2,911
- 2012-13 – 2,713
- 2011-12 – 3,049
- 2010-11 – 3,505
- 2009-10 – 3,473
- 2008-09 – 3,311
- 2007-08 – 3,362