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by Colin Poolman
01 October 2021
Associate Feature: Action needed now for safe and effective patient care

Associate Feature: Action needed now for safe and effective patient care

Scotland’s health and care services are in the grip of a nurse staffing crisis. We simply do not have enough nursing staff to cope with the levels of demand, whether in the NHS or independent sector.

The COVID-19 pandemic has compounded this crisis. But, as the Royal College of Nursing consistently highlighted before March 2020, nursing staff have been working for years with an arm tied behind their back under the pressure of staff shortages.

The Scottish Government’s NHS recovery plan sets out a range of reforms to support recovery from the pandemic. The plan rightly recognises that staff burn out and the number of staff considering retirement, are key risks.

There is, however, insufficient detail in the plan on how these issues will be addressed.
Action is needed now to retain our existing experienced nursing workforce and ensure the capacity and skills are available to support those starting out in nursing.

To date the Scottish Government’s workforce planning has been woefully poor. Scotland entered the pandemic with thousands of vacant nursing posts and in June, vacancies reached record levels. RCN members are deeply concerned about the effects this is having on patient care and their own wellbeing. We hear from them daily that they are unable to provide the care needed to the level of quality they would like and how many of them are considering leaving the profession they love.

As a safety critical profession, nursing has been undervalued and under-resourced for too long. The pandemic has compounded years of working under the pressure of staff shortages, and their pay has failed to keep pace with the cost of living.

The Scottish Government must do more and that starts with implementing the Health and Care (Staffing) (Scotland) Act to ensure Scotland has the nursing workforce it needs to deliver staffing for safe and effective patient care.

This article was sponsored by the Royal College of Nursing Scotland.

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