Scotland politics

Slight fall for nurse and midwife posts in Scotland

NHS worker
Image caption Ministers are bringing in new assessments on nursing and midwife hospital staffing levels

The number of nurses and midwives working in the Scottish NHS has fallen slightly in the past year, despite the overall workforce increasing.

There are a total of 131,845 NHS workers, compared with 131,339 a year ago, according to government-published figures.

The number of nursing and midwifery posts, which make up the biggest staff grouping in the NHS, fell by 45.

The figures for "whole-time equivalent" staff exclude GPs and general dentists.

The number of nursing and midwifery staff at 30 September was 56,263, compared with 56,309 on the same date in 2011, while overall NHS workforce numbers increased by 505.

Health Secretary Alex Neil said the shape of the NHS was changing, due to more people being treated in communities and hospital stays getting shorter.

And he said new mandatory assessments on nursing and midwifery staffing levels in hospitals were coming into force from April next year.

The government also said nursing and midwifery posts had gone up by 79 in the past four months and by 423 since 2006.

The statistics also showed NHS administrative posts had been cut by 505.

Mr Neil said: "The transition to greater treatment in the community is improving our NHS, but I am very clear that our hospitals must have the levels of staffing and skills to continue to deliver the very best quality care.

"That's why it is vital that any changes are led by in-depth and rigorous planning so we can make sure that the right mix of staff are working in the right place."

Tory health spokesman Jackson Carlaw said: "We know the trend over recent years has been to cut back on nurses, even if there was a miniscule increase last month.

"But with almost 1,400 vacancies, we really need to address this gap now.

"Filling these spaces would go a long way towards easing the pressure on those currently in place, and result in better care for patients.

Labour's Jackie Baillie added: "There are fewer nurses in the NHS in September this year than a year ago and the SNP now have fewer nursing staff than when they came to power in 2007.

"Not having adequate nursing staff numbers is one of the main reasons complaints are at an all time high."

Theresa Fyffe, director of the Royal College of Nursing, said: "We can't escape the fact that since 2009 we have lost more than 2,000 nursing staff from the workforce.

"Cuts to the workforce are not only bad news for patient care but mean that the remaining staff in the NHS are increasingly over-stretched."

Elsewhere, it emerged the cost of running the Scottish hospitals rose to more than £10bn last year.

Hospital operating costs, released by the statistical wing of the NHS, increased by 2.2%, from the 2010-11 total of £9.8bn, which SNP ministers said was below the current inflation rate of 2.5%.

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