The nursing workforce in Scotland has expanded to record levels, with 59,372 nurses working in NHS Scotland as of March 2016 according to data from the Scottish Information Services Division.
Since September 2006, the number of staff has risen by 4.6%, while the workforce has increased by 0.3% since March 2015.
The district nursing and health visiting workforces have also reached record levels of 3516 and 1938 respectively. Interestingly, the practice nurse workforce in Scotland was only 109 in the whole of Scotland. However, this is due to the majority of practice nurses being directly employed by practices, so no data is taken by the Information Services Division.
‘To give people the high quality healthcare they deserve, we are investing in and supporting a highly skilled NHS Scotland workforce,’ said Shona Robison, the Scottish health secretary. ‘In addition to having record staffing levels, Scotland is leading the UK in developing mandatory nursing and midwifery workload and workforce planning tools that help health boards to plan for the number of staff they require, ensuring the best possible care for patients.'
However, while the record number is encouraging, some have said that a rise in the number of vacancies shows that health boards are still unable to fill positions. The rate of vacancies increased from 3.3% in 2015 to 3.6% in 2016, sparking fears that agency staff are being used to plug the gaps.
‘While the number of nursing and midwifery staff in post increased slightly over the last year, the vacancy rate also went up over the same period by a similar figure,’ said RCN Scotland Director Theresa Fyffe. ‘This clearly shows that health boards continue to struggle to fill permanent nursing posts and are having to resort to expensive agency nurses to fill the gaps.’