Record cash for health and social care must deal with ‘chronic workforce shortages’, doctors urge

Record funding for health and social care in Scotland must be used to deal with “chronic workforce shortages”, doctors have insisted.

The Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh welcomed Finance Secretary Kate Forbes’ commitment to provide £18 billion for the sectors in the next financial year.

Delivering her Budget statement for 2022-23 to Holyrood, she said the Scottish Government was “generating the revenues we need” to invest in both the NHS and a planned new National Care Service

The money for the health service will take the “first step” towards ensuring frontline spending increases by at least £2.5 billion by 2026-27.

The package also includes £1.2 billion for mental health, Ms Forbes said, in line with the government’s aim of having 10% of all frontline NHS spending going towards this key area by the end of this Parliament.

Meanwhile £200 million of cash going to local government will ensure that councils can pay adult social care staff the national minimum wage of £10.50 an hour, the Finance Secretary told MSPs.

Professor Andrew Elder, president of the College welcomed the funding, including £147.6 million for tackling the problems of alcohol and drugs misuse, saying this was a “slight increase on last year”.

But overall he stressed that “any additional funding must be used efficiently – and it must reach healthcare workers on the front line, who continue to deliver quality patient outcomes under increased clinical demand”.

Prof Elder (pictured) said: “The College would urge the Scottish Government to use this record funding to invest in the medical workforce now, because as we highlighted in the recently published physician’s census, Scotland has too few doctors to meet clinical demand.

“Our chronic workforce shortages must now be addressed as part of a sustainable and deliverable long term plan for our NHS, taking account of changes such as the rise of part-time working, extended working, and the needs of an ageing population.”

He continued: “In the short term, funding must also go towards filling immediate rota gaps through innovative recruitment and retention programmes, and humane rota design, ensuring that there is enough medical equipment across all hospitals, and by providing good rest and refreshment facilities for medical staff, available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

“The inextricable links between health and social care must be supported and enhanced in an integrated way, and there is a real need to provide funding to support carer recruitment and training in the formal care sector, as well as support for informal and unpaid carers.”

£10.50 social care wage rise doesn’t go far enough, union says

The Scottish Government pledge to increase the minimum wage for public sector staff to £10.50 “simply doesn’t go far enough” for social care workers, a union leader has said.

Finance Secretary Kate Forbes announced the move as she outlined the draft budget on Thursday, which would be funded by a £200 million investment from the Scottish Government and would help to increase retention as ministers look to build the new national care service.

In October, Health Secretary Humza Yousaf announced an increase to £10.02 per hour.

Facing pressure to increase pay for social care staff as high as £15 per hour, the Finance Secretary suggested the move would simply be too expensive.

Louise Gilmour, the Scotland Secretary of the GMB trade union, said: “It’s a glaring missed opportunity to tackle the understaffing and retention crisis in social care and ease the unsustainable pressures on the NHS.

“£10.50 simply doesn’t go far enough, it’s a light touch and conservative response to a sector and workforce that’s in peril.

“If the Scottish Government wants the national care service to be a success, it must go further on pay and for GMB members that means a £15 an hour minimum.”

Questioning the Finance Secretary on the uplift, Scottish Labour deputy leader Jackie Baillie said it was “derisory”, adding: “These were the people on the front line of the pandemic, these were the people caring for our loved ones, these were the people who we clapped for every Thursday evening.

“So why have the SNP and the Greens – who put this in their manifesto – not listened to the trade unions, the social care employers and those who receive care that there needs to be an uplift of £12 an hour from next year?

“This is the second budget in a row that we have asked for this – it’s costed, it’s affordable without raising a single penny in income tax.

“Or is it the truth that the SNP and the Greens simply do not believe that social care workers are worth it?”

In response, the Finance Secretary said: “Jackie Baillie will know that it has been costed, and what the Labour Party has been calling for is £15 per hour, which would cost £1.8 billion.

“So we have chosen over the course of this year to increase the social care pay to £10.02 per hour as a priority and now increase it to £10.50 per hour.

“That is 48p per hour, per week towards social care workers.

“It is a priority that we have, it is higher than the national minimum wage, it is higher than the real living wage – because we believe in the importance of our carers, not just as part of ensuring that the health service can continue with the challenges that it faces, but also to ensure that we recognise and value the work that our social care workers do.”

The public sector pay policy announced on Thursday also means pledges an uplift of at least £775 for workers earning below £25,000, £700 to those earning between £25,000 and £40,000 and £500 to those above £40,000.

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