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12.05.15

Not enough nurses in Scotland to fill gaps in rotas

Hospitals in Scotland are under pressure as there are not enough nurses to fill rota gaps, the biggest nursing agency north of the border has warned.  

ScotNursing, which in the past has been able to fill 90% of available shifts, has warned it now only has enough staff to cover 40%.

The organisation’s chief executive Ann Rushforth told the BBC that the problem was down to the lack of school leavers joining the profession.

She urged nurses who are still registered but may have taken a break to have a family or to work in a care home to consider updating their clinical skills.

"People can make a significant difference by doing just one shift a month," she said.

"There are hundreds of vacancies we can't fill but this work still has to be done by someone. People may not realise they're not getting the support they should have."

In March the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) warned that, although the size of the NHS workforce in Scotland was rising, frontline nurses are increasingly reporting staffing shortages.

Since 2005 the number of nurses in Scotland has increased by 3,000 to 58,000 as of September 2014.

However, figures from the Information Services Division in Scotland suggested an extra 429,000 people were seen as inpatients and outpatients over the same period.

Director of RCN Scotland Theresa Fyffe said: "There is no doubt that there simply aren't enough nurses to fill the gaps.

"This is a result of growing patient demand, significant cuts to the number of nursing students recruited in 2011-12 and 2012-13 and high rates of retirement from the nursing workforce.

"And the withdrawal of return-to-practice programmes over the years makes it difficult for nurses to come back to the workforce. However, where these programmes are still available they are one way of filling these gaps.

"Ultimately, though, what we need is for health boards to robustly apply the nursing and midwifery workforce and workload planning tools. This is the only way in which we will get the right number of nurses with the right skills working in the right places."

The Scottish government said it was committed to giving nurses the support they need. Health secretary Shona Robison added that the number of nurses and midwives in Scotland had increased by 2,300 over the course of the current government.

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