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by Kirsteen Paterson
06 June 2022
Nursing leaders call for urgent action over Scottish staff levels

Nursing leaders call for urgent action over Scottish staff levels

RCN congress taking place in Glasgow

Nursing leaders will today raise the "urgent need to implement Scotland's safe staffing legislation" as nine in ten nurses raise concerns over patient care.

More than 2,300 nursing staff from across Scottish health and care services were surveyed by the Royal College of Nursing (RCN). Almost nine in ten  (86 per cent) said staffing levels on their last shift had not been high enough to "meet all the needs and dependency of their patients safely and effectively". Almost seven in ten said patient care had been compromised.

The figures are released today as RCN prepares to meet in Glasgow for its annual conference.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon pledged to enshrine safe staffing law at the event in 2016. The Health and Care (Staffing) (Scotland) Act was brought in three years later. The first such Act in the UK, preparations were underway for its implementation when Covid struck and Julie Lamberth, chair of the RCN Scotland board, is now calling for "urgent action". She said: "Three years ago today we thought progress was being made as Scotland’s ground-breaking safe staffing legislation received Royal Assent. But three years on and members are telling us about the very real concerns they have for the safety of their patients and residents and their own wellbeing, yet the Act has still to be implemented.

"Urgent action is needed to protect patient safety, address staff shortages and demonstrate that the nursing workforce is valued as a safety critical profession."

The conference will hear of similar concerns for other parts of the UK, with the planned number of registered nurses on duty for only one quarter of nursing shifts, according to reports from staff. RCN general secretary and chief executive Pat Cullen is expected to say: "Today, members are letting the full truth be known - nursing is saying loud and clear that enough is enough. If there was ever a time to break this cycle – it is now.

"It is your professional duty to be concerned about unsafe staffing and we have your back. Twenty-five thousand registered nurses left last year – a sharp rise on the year before, at the very moment we cannot afford to lose a single individual. The pressure is too great and the reward too little.

"Nursing staff are being driven out by the current way of working - the shortage of staff and too often the poor culture.

"To those from government listening to my words – we have had enough. The patients and those we care for have had enough.

"We’re tired, fed up, demoralised and some of us are leaving the profession because we have lost hope. Do something about it – we are not going away."

Scottish Lib Dem leader Alex Cole-Hamilton said the Scottish Government's "botched workforce planning has left so many departments dreadfully short" and "the NHS is being overwhelmed". Scottish Labour health spokesperson Jackie Baillie said: "There are currently 6,600 nursing vacancies in our NHS, all while patients go without vital treatment.

"Our nursing staff work tirelessly on the frontline of our NHS but they have been failed by the SNP for 15 years. Staff are overworked, underpaid and safe staffing legislation, passed unanimously by the parliament in 2019, has still not been implemented."

The Scottish Government said places on nursing courses have increased for 10 consecutive years to double the number of new-intake students: "We have recruited more than 1,000 additional healthcare support staff and almost 200 registered nurses from overseas to help address the unprecedented challenges facing the NHS.

"The Scottish Goverment remains committed to supporting NHS staff and this year we have made £12m available to support workforce wellbeing. We will continue to engage with our staff to ensure they get the necessary support they need."

Read the most recent article written by Kirsteen Paterson - Broken record: What do House of Lords defeats say about the UK Government?

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