We appreciate the dedication of our nurses, midwives and, indeed, all our national health service staff, and we recognise the pressures that they face. Under this Government, there are now more than 2,100 extra qualified nurses and midwives, which is a rise of more than 5 per cent since we took office. We are, of course, not complacent, so this year we will again increase the number of trainee nurses and midwives—a fourth successive rise. We will also spend £450,000 to enable former nurses and midwives to retrain and return to the profession.
Miles Briggs used the phrase “perfect storm”, which I accept is that of the RCN. A situation in the future in which people from other countries who work in our health service are prevented from doing so will add to the challenges that our health service faces. We value our health service staff: we must ensure that we value all of them, regardless of where they were born.
With the First Minister today taking responsibility for the health service, does she believe that she made a mistake as the then Cabinet Secretary for Health and Wellbeing in cutting the number of student work placements in Scotland? Why has it taken her Government 10 years to introduce a national health service workforce plan?
Workforce plans are in place in health boards and, as I have just said, the number of qualified nurses and midwives in our health service is higher today than it was when we took office. That suggests that the policies of this Government have been right—but we have more work to do. That is why, as I said earlier, we are determined to do that work and to focus on the challenges. We will work with our NHS staff to ensure that we meet the challenges.
On a point of order, Presiding Officer. This morning, Labour requested an emergency question on the publication by Audit Scotland of the worst report since devolution on the state of the NHS, with only one out of eight standards having been met. The reason for the refusal of an emergency question, as I understand it, is that on Thursdays we have an opportunity to hold the Government to account through First Minister’s question time. However, emergency questions are the opportunity for Parliament to hold the relevant minister to account and standing orders are clear that emergency questions can be asked on any sitting day, including Thursdays.
It cannot be right that the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport hides behind the First Minister. Is she simply out of her depth? The report is a damning indictment of the health secretary and she should come to Parliament to address—[
The Presiding Officer:
The member has made a point, but it is not a point of order. The member is perfectly capable of speaking to his business manager and raising the issue through the business manager at the Parliamentary Bureau meeting on Tuesday morning.