Half of nursing staff say they are too busy to provide the standard of care they would like to because of cuts to the “backbone of the NHS”, a survey by the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) in Scotland found.
As budget cuts begin to bite, RCN Scotland director Theresa Fyffe said staff are increasingly overstretched and health services are relying on the goodwill of workers who take on extra tasks to ensure care levels are maintained.
She added that as the country’s elderly population increases and demand for healthcare services rises, the cuts to the nursing workforce are threatening patient care.
The claims come as figures from the Scottish Government’s NHS Information Services Division showed that 372 posts were axed between June and September this year.
This takes the number of nursing and midwifery jobs lost in the last year in Scotland to 1,569 - 2.7% of the total, leaving 56,309 staff - while more than 2,000 nursing posts have gone in the last two years.
Ms Fyffe said: “True to their word, health boards are cutting the number of nurses they employ, as they set out in their workforce projections for the financial year. As a result the number of nursing staff working in our NHS is at its lowest level since 2006. Health boards are in the unenviable position of having to balance their books and make savings at the same time.
“While there is no doubt that health boards can do more to make savings on non-workforce related budgets, the Scottish Government must take responsibility for our NHS and set out a clear way forward which will allow high quality patient care to continue to be delivered despite budgetary increases not keeping up with demand. Relying on the goodwill of already overstretched staff to keep providing care to more and more patients is simply not the answer.”