The NHS in Scotland predicts it will employ about 640 more nurses by the end of this financial year, but unions have questioned where new staff will come from amid widespread shortages.
Figures published by the Scottish government show health boards and other NHS bodies expect to recruit nearly 642 additional full-time equivalent nurses and midwives in 2015-16.
This is an overall increase of 1.1%, which includes nursing and midwifery interns.
“These extra members of staff will be important in helping to meet the steady rise in demand for NHS services”
The biggest increase in the number of nurses is expected in West Lothian, with just over 148 extra full-time equivalents to be employed – an increase of 1.6%.
NHS Fife is set to get about 106 more nurses and midwives – a 3% rise – while NHS Greater Glasgow and the Clyde is expecting about 73 more – a 0.5% increase.
The projections are based on health boards’ own assessments of the extra staff numbers they need to deliver services. The figures were published yesterday in a report titled NHS Board Projected staff in Post changes for 2015-16.
However, the Royal College of Nursing said it was not clear where new nurses would come from, given ongoing staff shortages and high vacancy rates.
“The projections show there are plans for an extra 1,000 staff, including over 640 nurses and midwives in this financial year,” said RCN Scotland director Theresa Fyffe.
“My question is: Where do they expect to get these staff from? There are already 1,900 vacancies across the NHS, a 3.2% vacancy rate, and we know many health boards are struggling to recruit nurses to fill them,” she said.
“Where do they expect to get these staff from? There are already 1,900 vacancies across the NHS”
The figures were published alongside new performance data showing increased waiting times for referrals to treatments and key diagnostic tests.
Health secretary Shona Robinson said some new staff had already been recruited “with further recruitment planned throughout the year”.
“These extra members of staff will be important in helping to meet the steady rise in demand for NHS services,” she said.
The figures include staffing projections for national organisations including the NHS national waiting times centre, which is set to have 20.5 more full-time equivalent nursing jobs – a 2.9% increase.
The document said the centre will continue to expand in 2015-16 including creating more nursing roles.
Meanwhile, nursing posts at healthcare helpline NHS 24 will be reduced from about 277 as of March this year to 266 next year.