Nurses (Rural Areas)

– in the Scottish Parliament on 23rd June 2022.

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Photo of Finlay Carson Finlay Carson Conservative

7. To ask the Scottish Government how it will address the reported shortage of nurses in rural areas. (S6O-01282)

Photo of Kevin Stewart Kevin Stewart Scottish National Party

Although Scotland’s nursing and midwifery staffing is at a record high, the Government understands that health boards that are operating in primarily remote or rural communities face distinct recruitment challenges. That is why we will develop a remote and rural recruitment strategy by the end of 2024, and a national centre for remote and rural health and social care, which is expected to be operational by spring 2023. That will support employers to ensure that the health and social care needs of people who live in remote and rural communities are met.

Photo of Finlay Carson Finlay Carson Conservative

The latest figures show that the number of unfilled nursing posts continues to grow, which puts pressure on already overworked and exhausted staff members. In Dumfries and Galloway, we have a 14 per cent vacancy rate in paediatrics; a 14 per cent vacancy rate in school nursing; and a 10 per cent vacancy rate, which is more than the national figure, for mental health nursing.

Is the minister aware of the huge impact that that is having on Dumfries and Galloway royal infirmary, which is currently cancelling more operations than those that are going ahead because of staff shortages? Families of patients in one specialist ward have been asked to help out with basic care, such as feeding the patients. There is also a situation where one registered nurse has been left alone in charge of an entire adult mental health ward. Can the minister tell me what urgent action he will take to address those issues?

Photo of Kevin Stewart Kevin Stewart Scottish National Party

The Government will continue to invest in the recruitment and retention of healthcare staff, including nurses in remote and rural locations. That includes a record £11 million in the lifetime of this parliamentary session to support further international recruitment. We have also doubled the number of funded training places in nursing and midwifery over the past 10 years.

If we take NHS Dumfries and Galloway in Mr Carson’s area, since this Government came to power, staff levels are up 19.1 per cent, or 633.3 whole-time equivalent posts, and the number of qualified nurses and midwives in Dumfries and Galloway is up by 11.3 per cent, or 131.9 WTE posts—much greater than south of the border, where the Tories are in power.

The Presiding Officer:

That concludes general questions. Before we move on to First Minister’s question time, I invite members to join me in welcoming to the gallery the Honourable Nathan Cooper MLA, who is the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly of Alberta. [