Scotland politics

'Inertia' over Scottish NHS staffing criticised

The Conservatives have accused the Scottish government of sleepwalking through an NHS staffing "crisis".

Tory health spokesman Donald Cameron used a Holyrood debate to claim the health service was overstretched and struggling to meet ever-increasing demand.

He said the situation had been compounded by the "inertia" of the Scottish government over the issue.

Health Secretary Shona Robison said the NHS in England faced similar problems.

The minister said: "I could quote many, many organisations that are saying much more powerful words about the record of the Tory party in charge of the NHS in England.

"We only have to look at the junior doctors' strikes that have been happening in England compared to the constructive partnership relationship we have with our professions here north of the border."

Ms Robison added: "I want to be very clear about the record of this government on staff numbers.

"In Scotland we are better equipped to deliver services than we have ever been but, yes, there are challenges, absolutely."

Image caption Ms Robison and Mr Cameron clashed over their records of their respective parties on the NHS

But Mr Cameron said the Scottish government had displayed "no sign of vigour" over the "repeated warnings" about NHS staffing.

He added: "Instead, we have inertia, we have listlessness, we have a Scottish government sleepwalking through this crisis."

He continued: "It's time for the SNP to take responsibility, and belatedly take action. Everyone in this parliament cares about our NHS but words are not enough now.

"The Scottish Government's programme for government was weak on short-staffing, weak on supporting primary care and weak on supporting our hard-working doctors, nurses, social care workers and other health professionals."

'Second worst'

Mr Cameron said Scotland needed to create a sustainable NHS that was properly staffed over the next five years, but also over the next 25 years."

Labour's health spokesman Anas Sarwar said Scotland's NHS, and the staff and patients in it, were "being let down by this government and this cabinet secretary".

He told Ms Robison she was a better health secretary than her UK counterpart Jeremy Hunt, but added: "I hardly think being the second worst health secretary in the UK is much of a compliment.

Mr Sarwar added: "There are 2,500 nursing and midwivery vacancies in our NHS, going up not down. Within that, 300 mental health nurse vacancies, and that is meant to be a priority for this government.

"This is a direct result of decisions taken by this government. When Nicola Sturgeon was health secretary she actually cut training places for nurses and midwives, and this is coming back to haunt our hospitals."

Scottish Lib Dem MSP Alex Cole-Hamilton claimed GPs were finding their surgeries in "abject distress", but that the Scottish government its fingers in its ears over the issue.

He said: "There is a fundamental and existential crisis in our health service."