Scotland

New recruitment bid to address NHS care demands

Elderly couple holding hands Image copyright Getty Images

Plans to increase staffing levels to deal with growing demands in health and social care have been outlined by the Scottish government.

It will recruit 375 district nurses by 2024 in a bid to boost the amount of people receiving care at home.

The plan includes more specialist physiotherapists and pharmacists and a new service for stroke patients.

It will also feature extra mental health officers and more training places for clinical psychologists.

The number of student nursing places will also increase by 5%.

A new £600,000 service will be created as part of the project to train radiologists in mechanical thrombectomy, which removes blood clots.

It is currently being piloted at NHS Tayside but will be rolled out across the country in the next 12 months.

'Vital step'

Health Secretary Jeane Freeman said: "This is the UK's first integrated health and social care workforce plan and it will be invaluable in helping us to anticipate and respond to the changing and growing demand faced by our health and social care services.

"One key example of this is our commitment to create a national thrombectomy service to treat stroke victims - a vital step in the planning and delivery of a comprehensive stroke service for Scotland."

Ms Freeman said "record numbers" were working across the sector, with NHS staffing levels up more than 11% since 2006

A report released alongside the plan pinpointed Brexit as being a continued concern for workforce planning in the NHS, with 7.3% of registered nurses in Scotland being EU nationals.

The health secretary reiterated the Scottish government's commitment to protecting the health service from any detrimental effects brought on by the UK's withdrawal from the EU.

She said: "As this plan outlines, the threat of a no-deal Brexit remains, and as a responsible government we will continue to do all we can to protect our health and social care services."

'Under pressure'

The blueprint was due to be published at the end of last year, and comes weeks after Audit Scotland criticised a lack of long-term planning and investment in community services if the NHS is to be sustainable in the future.

Stuart Currie, Cosla's health and social care spokesman, said: "Workforce planning is essential to ensure that Scotland's people receive the right care by the right people at the right time and in the right place.

"We look forward to continued cross-sectoral work to realise this plan's ambition and to further develop capacity and capability for workforce planning in social care and beyond, for the benefit of our citizens' health and well-being."

Alongside the increase in places for nursing staff, another 225 training places for physiotherapists will be created for staff to work in primary care, as well as 120 more pharmacists over the next three years.

Scottish Labour health spokeswoman Monica Lennon said: "This plan is long overdue and whilst we welcome some of these announcements, not least the establishment of a thrombectomy service, what we now need to see is action from SNP ministers to actually deliver the workforce and resources that our NHS needs.

"NHS staff are under pressure and overworked, and Scottish Labour has repeatedly raised concerns about staff wellbeing."

Ms Lennon also expressed concern about government predictions that Scotland needs an additional 20,000 staff by 2021/24.

The Scottish Conservatives' health spokesman Miles Briggs said: "It's been well established for some time that, with an ageing and increasing population, our social care services are under immense pressure.

"Perhaps if the Nationalists had acted sooner, we wouldn't be facing this current crisis."

Liberal Democrat health spokesman Alex Cole-Hamilton accused the Scottish government of causing "the current crisis" in nursing staff, which the plan aims to address.