National Treatment Centres (Staffing)

– in the Scottish Parliament on 9th November 2022.

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Photo of Alex Rowley Alex Rowley Labour

4. To ask the Scottish Government, in light of the reported present staffing crisis, how it will ensure adequate staffing for the proposed national treatment centres. (S6O-01519)

Photo of Humza Yousaf Humza Yousaf Scottish National Party

We are committed to recruiting 1,500 additional staff during this parliamentary session to work across our national treatment centres. The Scottish Government is providing a range of recruitment support, training and development activity to assist health boards in securing the right mix of new and experienced staff. That includes additional funding to support international recruitment; providing additional postgraduate specialty training places in medicine; funding training opportunities through the NHS Scotland Academy, including training for new perioperative staff; and actively considering future staffing needs as part of on-going workforce planning activity. We have also taken action to support the retention of experienced staff and to develop new pathways into NHS Scotland careers.

Photo of Alex Rowley Alex Rowley Labour

The cabinet secretary says that he is committed to providing 1,500 additional staff. He might want to say how that is going. Will he set out a timetable for it?

In recent weeks and months, I have met local staff and trade unions in Fife and across the region, and they ask that question.

Is there not also a need for greater transparency? Although people acknowledge the difficulties that the NHS faces, they must have confidence that the Government is on top of the issue. If staff who work on the front line do not have that confidence, how can the cabinet secretary expect anyone else to have it?

Photo of Humza Yousaf Humza Yousaf Scottish National Party

I speak to staff regularly. In fact, I did so today during a visit to Wishaw general hospital’s accident and emergency department, in Lanarkshire.

The Government has a proud record on NHS staffing and on growing staffing levels—NHS staffing is at record levels.

We have committed to publishing next year, in our regular statistics, details of how the recruitment is going for the NTCs. I state, again, our commitment to provide 1,500 additional staff for those centres. From the information that I have to hand and from my discussions with the local health board, I know that the recruitment for the Fife national treatment centre is going well and that things are very much on track for its opening next year.

Photo of Sue Webber Sue Webber Conservative

The 10 national treatment centres should deliver at least 40,000 additional elective surgeries and procedures a year by 2026. Luke Farrow, an orthopaedic surgeon and research fellow at the University of Aberdeen, told BBC Scotland that getting the treatment centres online is an absolute priority and that, every week, the backlog gets worse. Mr Farrow also stated that there must be planning to ensure that the 1,500 staff for the national treatment centres are not taken from elsewhere in the NHS, which would merely serve to worsen wider recruitment issues.

The NHS Lothian treatment centre in Livingston will need 400 staff, but NHS Lothian has warned that significant risks and challenges exist around that level of hiring. Can the cabinet secretary confirm that none of the 1,500 staff that are required for the national treatment centres will be taken from the current NHS staff?

Photo of Humza Yousaf Humza Yousaf Scottish National Party

I reiterate what I said to Alex Rowley: we expect the 1,500 staff to be additional. It is worth noting that the commitment to recruit 1,500 additional staff equates to recruiting less than 1 per cent of the total NHS workforce, so the risks of destabilisation are slim, although we will of course engage with boards—like we would do with NHS Lothian—in order to monitor any local challenges.

When we look at the recruitment of staff, we are aware that significant challenges exist, not just in urban settings such as our NTC in Edinburgh, but also, in particular, in our rural and remote communities. We will engage with boards regularly, but I give a firm commitment that we are talking about additional staff and add that the risk of destabilisation is very slim.

Photo of Willie Rennie Willie Rennie Liberal Democrat

Boasting about recruitment track records and talking about the current crisis as being a “challenge” underestimates the real crisis that we have in our NHS. Just this week, we have heard about the astonishing waits at accident and emergency and about the crisis in our mental health services, yet the cabinet secretary talks as if he is managing the system well. When will he get real about the crisis in the NHS, and when will he sort it out?

Photo of Humza Yousaf Humza Yousaf Scottish National Party

That was yet another Willie Rennie intervention, full of constructive ideas, solutions and suggestions. I say to him that nobody—not I nor anyone in the Government—underestimates the challenge that the NHS faces. That is why I spend every waking moment trying to do our best to resolve some of the issues that we are facing, not just in the NHS but in social care. That is why the Government has invested record funding in our NHS and social care, and why we have record staffing in our NHS. That is not a boast; it is simply to demonstrate that we are taking action to help our NHS in a period of difficulty and challenge, which will only increase over the course of the winter.

If Willie Rennie has any constructive suggestions—he is shaking his head to show that he does not—I am more than happy to sit with him and have that discussion off table.

Photo of Stephanie Callaghan Stephanie Callaghan Scottish National Party

In light of Keir Starmer’s truly irresponsible comments on reducing the number of migrant workers in the NHS, how can the Scottish Government ensure that Scotland attracts the finest talents from overseas to address the immediate staffing shortages in our health service?

Photo of Humza Yousaf Humza Yousaf Scottish National Party

I agree with Stephanie CallaghanKeir Starmer’s comment on overseas workers was inflammatory and such comments have no place in Scotland. Our NHS family should be proud of the fact that it is diverse. People from across the world choose to work in our NHS; they come here and provide excellent care to people in need. Whether you are a nurse, doctor, cleaner, member of admin staff, porter or anybody in between— whatever your role is and whether you have been in Scotland for 20 years or for just a couple of weeks—not only is Scotland your home but we are proud to have you as part of the NHS family.

The Labour Party, instead of chuntering from the sidelines, should care less about the front pages of certain right-wing newspapers and do what we do in the Scottish Government: care more about the front line of our NHS.