The link between nurse staffing levels and high-quality care for patients is well established. Staff welfare is a top priority, and we take staff views on the issues very seriously. The RCN has called for safe-staffing legislation, and we intend, as we set out in the programme for government, to take that forward. Of course, the United Kingdom Government has given no commitment to similar legislation in England.
In addition, we are committing an additional £40 million to create an estimated 2,600 extra training places over the next four years, and will continue to work with the RCN and other organisations to help to shape future action.
In the past two weeks, we have heard warnings from the Royal College of General Practitioners that Scotland is now 856 GPs short. This week, RCN Scotland has predicted that Scotland is 2,800 nurses short. Obviously, the 2,600 training places will not cover that shortage. The situation is now directly impacting on staff and patient care. Having been in control of our national health service for 10 and a half years, does the First Minister now accept that the Scottish Government’s NHS workforce planning has been totally mismanaged?
No, I do not. There are almost 12,000 more people working in our health service today than there were when the Government took office. As I said, we are also taking a range of actions in relation to nursing students, including the safe-staffing legislation that I spoke about and an increase in intakes for pre-registration nursing and midwifery programmes.
Under the Scottish National Party Government, there has been an average of 1,000 more nurses in training every year than there were under the previous Administration. As I said, we are spending £40 million on increasing training places.
We have also kept the nursing bursary, which the Tories south of the border have abolished. That is leading to a rapid reduction in the numbers coming into nurse training in England.
We will continue to take a range of actions on nursing and across other elements of the NHS workforce. However, I will end where I often do on questions about the NHS: as we take all those actions to try to increase the number of people who are coming into the NHS and the different professional groups within it, we face the looming threat of Brexit, which is making it harder for those who are already here to stay here and contribute to our NHS and will, of course, make it harder for us to recruit people who want to come here.
Yet again I say, whether it is on the NHS, welfare or any such issues, shame on the Tories for coming here to lecture others while their own Government does so much damage to the things that we hold dear.