Queen Elizabeth University Hospital (Staffing)

– in the Scottish Parliament on 28th September 2021.

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Photo of Sue Webber Sue Webber Conservative

2. To ask the Scottish Government what its response is to reports of staffing shortages at the Queen Elizabeth university hospital that are leading to health professionals warning about patient safety. (S6T-00184)

Photo of Humza Yousaf Humza Yousaf Scottish National Party

Staffing levels in Scotland’s national health service are at a record high, following an increase of 5,000 whole-time equivalent staff in the past year. NHS Scotland’s workforce has grown by over 20 per cent under the Scottish Government. Since March 2020, the number of nursing and midwifery staff in NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde has increased by 800.

Nevertheless, I fully acknowledge the extremely challenging circumstances in NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde and across the NHS in Scotland. A range of further interventions are now being actively deployed in the service to support current capacity. That includes provision of additional targeted flexibility, streamlining of recruitment processes and bringing forward of planned recruitment. For example, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde advises me that it has taken steps to bring on board 670 newly qualified nurses, of whom 573 are already in post. The remaining 97 will start as soon as their registration is processed and complete.

I thank the people who are joining our NHS to support us during this challenging period, and I thank the members of the wider workforce, who have shown extraordinary commitment during the pandemic.

Photo of Sue Webber Sue Webber Conservative

The report from the weekend made for grim reading, and said that 339 warnings of understaffing at the hospital have been logged since 2019. There have, due to staff shortages, been 55 near-miss incidents in which there was potential for a patient to be harmed. Apparently, that is just the tip of the iceberg. One clinician has said that the Datix system, which is used to log such warnings, is complex and that the figure of 339 could easily be doubled. He also said that in some places there are

“Two nurses for 28 patients when there should be six”.

Does the cabinet secretary believe that that is acceptable? Will he apologise to the staff who are working under those conditions?

Photo of Humza Yousaf Humza Yousaf Scottish National Party

I take on board the comments that have been made by Ms Webber and the staff—I read the article that Ms Webber read—on the complexity of the Datix system. However, the system provides incredibly useful feedback for hospital management and for the Government. I encourage staff to continue to report any issues on that system.

As I highlighted in my first answer to Ms Webber, where problems of understaffing have been identified, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde has taken action. It has recruited 670 newly qualified nurses; some have already started and some are starting in the coming weeks. The Government will continue to ensure that our NHS has record staffing levels.

Photo of Sue Webber Sue Webber Conservative

Workforce planning issues are nothing new and Covid has brought obvious challenges, but staffing has been a problem for quite some time, despite the action that we have just heard about. Last week, the GMB union said that there was already an understaffing crisis in the Scottish Ambulance Service pre-Covid.

In the report at the weekend, a clinician said:

Nicola Sturgeon reduced the number of nursing training places a decade ago and these people would be skilled now and able to work in the NHS. Warnings were given at the time.”

Will the cabinet secretary stop hiding behind Covid to mask the issues that were already present in the NHS, and finally accept that the Government’s lack of action has compounded the current NHS staffing crisis?

Photo of Humza Yousaf Humza Yousaf Scottish National Party

I will deal with some of Ms Webber’s inaccuracies. NHS Scotland has the highest staffing levels ever—they have increased by 20 per cent under this Government. In NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, the number of all staff is up: the number of qualified nurses and midwives is up by 9.1 per cent; the number of consultants is up by 46 per cent; the number of emergency medicine consultants is up by 220 per cent; the number of obstetrics and gynaecology consultants is up by more than 36 per cent; and the number of general practitioners is up by more than 10 per cent.

Ms Webber can try all the spin in the world, but it will not detract from the facts. Under our stewardship of the NHS, we have not only record staffing levels but the best-paid staff anywhere in the UK. I stand proudly on the Government’s record of funding and staffing the NHS, in comparison with the record of Ms Webber’s party, whose record is of cutting public services, of not being remotely as generous as we have been to NHS staff, and of having more than a decade of austerity.

Forgive me, Presiding Officer: I will not take lectures from the Conservatives on staffing and funding our NHS.

The Presiding Officer:

I remind members that we are tight for time, so succinct questions and responses would be appreciated, please.

Photo of Stephanie Callaghan Stephanie Callaghan Scottish National Party

Does the cabinet secretary agree that NHS and other public sector staff have done a remarkable job during the pandemic? Before the election, Sue Webber suggested that public sector staff including nurses should, through salary sacrifice, have their pay cut by 20 per cent to match the position of people who were on furlough. Does the cabinet secretary agree that such a move would seriously undermine recruitment of NHS staff and other key workers?

Photo of Humza Yousaf Humza Yousaf Scottish National Party

I agree. Incredibly, Ms Webber forgot to mention those remarks when she asked her question; I hope that she will apologise for them. I note that she called salary sacrifice “a policy”. I tell members that the Scottish National Party Government will continue to ensure that NHS workers and social care workers are the best paid in the UK. Ms Webber’s abhorrent comments about our NHS workers show that the Conservatives say one thing in public but another in private.