Nurse recruitment should be top health priority for Scottish government

Author: Caroline White

Nurse recruitment should be the top priority for Scottish government spending on health and social care, indicate the results of a public poll, carried out by the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) Scotland.

The results indicate widespread concern that there are too few nursing staff to provide safe and effective care for the people of Scotland, with three out of four respondents (76%) on the Scotpulse panel recognising the need for more nursing staff.

Nearly 1000 (997) people were asked for their views between 28 January and 4 February 2020. Results were weighted to reflect the make-up of the Scottish public by gender and age.

The Scottish government’s draft budget includes funding to expand the district nursing workforce, to support the implementation of the Health and Care (Staffing) (Scotland) Act and to support mental health services.

With almost 4,000 nursing and midwifery vacancies within the NHS and an estimated 20% registered nurse vacancy level in the care homes sector, nurses and health care support workers are under immense pressure and most feel they don’t have time to care for patients as they would wish, says the RCN.

Many poll respondents were concerned about the impact on care of the current nursing shortage. 

Around two thirds of those polled said they were concerned, that if they or a family member needed nursing care, they would receive timely clinical care from staff with the right skills or experience. More than 70% were concerned about being discharged at the right time.

Respondents felt the number of hours nursing staff work (64%) and the salary they receive (59%) were the main factors influencing the headcount, and 60% said that higher salaries for nurses and healthcare support workers should be a Scottish government priority.

Theresa Fyffe, director, RCN Scotland said: “Nursing is consistently ranked as the most trusted profession and it is time Scotland’s political leaders recognised and valued the contribution of nursing staff in line with the general public.

“The additional funding for health and social care services outlined in the budget is welcome, however, given the scale of the challenges, we need to see a continued long-term focus to tackle the current staffing shortage and meet ever increasing need.”

She added: “Getting the implementation of the Health and Care (Staffing) (Scotland) Act right will provide a framework to address these workforce shortages and support staff at all levels to raise and respond to risks. However, it will only be successful if there is sufficient funding for health and care providers to meet their safe staffing duties under the Act in a sustainable way.”