Nursing looks set to be a key election issue in Scotland, following a raft of pledges and policy announcements this week that directly affect the profession.
The Scottish Labour party promised an extra 1,000 nurses as its first pre-election pledge on Monday, with leader Jim Murphy controversially suggesting that funding for the posts would come from the UK-wide mansion tax – 95% of which will come from the South East of England.
Mr Murphy said: “When we talk of loved ones who have been cared for so brilliantly by the NHS, so often what we actually mean is cared for by NHS nurses. I want to honour this work as I set out Scottish Labour’s first election pledge.”
However, the Scottish National Party argued that Labour’s sums on funding the extra posts “didn’t make sense”.
Later in the week first minister Nicola Sturgeon announced that £2.5m would be invested in specialist nursing, with the first £700,000 going towards motor-neurone disease. It would be “sufficient to fund all MND specialist nurses working in the NHS from the public purse, and to double their number”, she said.
Meanwhile, the Scottish Conservatives called for every hospital ward to display the number of nurses on duty in the same way as was introduced in England last year.
Dr Nanette Milne, the party’s health spokeswoman, said: “The ratio of nurses to patients on our hospital wards is vital to ensure high standards of care. One way of maintaining this would be to display ‘real time’ information on the number of nurses on duty at any given time.”
A Scottish Government spokeswoman said some NHS boards were “already trialling the prominent display of nursing numbers in wards”, but the “most important way of ensuring appropriate levels of nursing staff” was to use mandatory workload and workforce planning tools.