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Workforce tools behind rise in nurse numbers, say Scottish ministers

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The number of nurses and midwives working for the NHS in Scotland has risen and the upward trend is expected to continue, latest figures reveal.

In June, the number of whole time equivalent nursing and midwifery staff in post was 57,152, according to data published by the Scottish government’s Information Services Division.

This represents a small increase of 116 (0.2%) since March but of 969 (1.7%) since June 2012. Overall, the number of whole time equivalent NHS staff in June was 133,378, an increase of 1.5% over the past year.

Nurses and midwives accounted for 42.8% of all staff working for NHS Scotland.

It is the first publication of workforce figures since national nursing workforce planning tools were made mandatory in April.

Workforce projection figures, also published this week, show the number of nursing and midwifery posts is expected to increase by 1.5% overall during the current 2013-14 financial year, which will end on 31 March 2014.

Nursing and midwifery is projected to increase by 856 whole time equivalent posts over the 12 months. The largest projected increase will be in NHS Lothian, which is expected to increase by 317, up 3.5%.

In total the number of NHS staff is expected to rise by 0.9% in 2013-14, a projected increase of 1,261 whole time equivalent staff.

Alex Neil, cabinet secretary for health and wellbeing, said: “These figures reflect the fact that we now have mandatory nursing workforce planning tools in place across Scotland, and that they are working well in helping health boards to plan for the number of staff they require.

“These latest figures show an increase in the number of staff,” he added. “By using these tools we can be confident that we have the right number of staff required to provide safe, effective and person centred care to patients.”

Theresa Fyffe, director of Royal College of Nursing Scotland, said: “There is no doubt that health boards are responding to the wake-up call caused by the cuts, but the jury is out as to whether their response will be enough to relieve the pressures caused by ever-increasing demand, particularly as winter approaches.”

The Scottish figures contrast with the mixed picture in England. Earlier this month data revealed the NHS in England has lost more than 5,000 nurses in three years.

However, the figures published by the Health and Social care Information Centre also showed there had been a nominal annual increase in nurse numbers.

There were 307,634 whole time equivalent qualified nursing, midwifery and health visiting staff in post in May this year – representing a 0.2% increase from the 306,999 in May 2012.

As revealed by Nursing Times this month, ministers in England are yet to act on recommendations in the Francis and Berwick reports that the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence develop safe workforce planning tools for different specialities.

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Readers' comments (1)

  • "Workforce tools behind rise in nurse numbers, say Scottish ministers"

    Well they would say that, wouldn't they? The reality is that this so-called rise in nurse numbers is just an easily manipulated statistic and doesn't translate into actual numbers on the ground. The ISD analysts seem to come up with all sorts of lovely 'sums' about nurses workloads and efficiency without actually coming out from behind their calculators. It's all very easy when it is just a set of numbers which comply with a set of formulae.

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