‘Crushing’ amount spent on agency nurses ‘the price of SNP failure’, Labor says

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Labor Health spokeswoman Jackie Baillie said the amount spent by health boards on agency and bank nurses was the ‘price of the SNP’s failure’ in workforce planning. work

Scottish health boards spent £236m in a year on bank and agency nurses to fill NHS staffing gaps, figures show.

Statistics released by the Scottish Government revealed that there was an 11.3% increase in spending to cover turnover discrepancies in the year to March 2021, after the pandemic took hold .

Scottish Labor said the figures were symptomatic of a nursing workforce ‘on the brink’ and said the taxpayer was paying a heavy price for the SNP workforce planning failures.

A recent study by the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) showed that since 2011-12, bank nursing has increased by 58.9% to 5,018.9 WTE in 2020-21.

An NCR spokesperson said the pandemic had led to ‘off-scale’ staff absences, but added: ‘The bottom line is that Scotland does not have the nursing staff it needs to provide care for all who need it. “

The Scottish Government has said spending on agency nursing in Scotland represents less than 1% of the overall staff budget, with the majority of temporary staff coming from the NHS Staff Bank.

The skyrocketing bill for agency and bank staff comes as more than 6,600 WTE nursing and midwifery vacancies are reported across the Scottish NHS.

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Scottish Labor Health spokeswoman Jackie Baillie said: “The facts are clear to all – the utter failure of the SNP to support our nursing staff has led to gaping chasms in staffing levels and a breathtaking bill on the public purse.

“Make no mistake, this is the price of the SNP’s failure.

“The heroic Scottish nurses go above and beyond for patients every day, but they are let down by a government that is unwilling to act.

“If we are to tackle this nursing staffing crisis, we need a proper plan to get the qualified nursing staff we need – including incentive agencies and bank nurses into the ranks of our NHS .

“If we don’t act now, it will only increase costs to the taxpayer and even more pressure on our overworked nursing staff.

Norman Provan, associate director of the RCN, said it was “not surprising” that boards of health had to resort to agency staff given the pressures of the pandemic, high sickness absence rates and the record number of nursing vacancies.

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However, he said the situation was unsustainable in the long term and the use of agency workers was disrupting the continuity of care.

He said: “There are nearly 5,000 vacancies in nursing and midwifery in the NHS alone. The Scottish care home sector is experiencing a similar struggle to fill permanent nursing positions.

“Some investment in agency nursing will always be needed to cover unforeseen events and ensure safe patient care, but boards of health cannot continue to increase spending on agency nursing.

“It is not sustainable and the lack of continuity of the healthcare teams can impact the quality of care and the morale of the staff.

“The bottom line is that Scotland does not have the nursing staff it needs to provide care for everyone who needs it.

“A structured approach to workforce planning, which includes measures to retain experienced nursing staff and make nursing an attractive and well-paid career choice, as well as the implementation of legislation on safe staffing is necessary.”

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It comes after doctors warned in The Herald that spiraling A&E delays have seen some patients wait more than three days for a bed, while others have suffered broken hips in falls from ward carts. emergency.

Doctors warned that the true extent of the delays and damage was not reflected in official statistics, with one comparing the sleep deprivation and delirium suffered by elderly patients to “torture”.

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “Spending on agency nursing in Scotland represents less than 1% of the overall staff budget, with the majority of temporary staff coming from the NHS Staff Bank – which has NHS staff under contract with the NHS.

“We are fully aware of the difficult circumstances in which advice and frontline staff are working, which is why we have worked hard to ensure that our NHS maintains the increased number of staff that we have seen over the past 10 years. consecutive years.

“The number of nurses and midwives is at record highs across the country – up 14.5%.

“We also continued our long-term investment in nursing and midwifery education, with a record number of funded places this academic year.

“The number of female nursing and midwifery students entering funded degree programs will increase for the tenth consecutive year in 2022-23, meaning that student places have doubled over the past decade.

“We have also committed over £1bn to our NHS recovery plan and £300m which was announced last winter to support additional recruitment, which is already bearing fruit.”

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