Scotland’s nursing and midwifery staff levels at a seven-year low

The number of nurses and midwives working for the NHS has fallen to a seven-year low, new figures have revealed.

Statistics released on Tuesday reveal there was the whole-time equivalent of 56,183.7 full-time nursing and midwifery staff at the end of June — the lowest total since September 2005.

Staff numbers have fallen by 2,000 in the past three years alone.

Although part of the drop can be attributed to the transfer of 100 nurses from the NHS to the Highland Council, Labour health spokeswoman Jackie Baillie accused the Scottish Government of trying to cover up the drop by including interns in the staff figures.

The figures also revealed there was a total of 153,427 people working for the NHS at the end of June — 939 fewer than three months before.

The number of senior managers working in the NHS fell by 105 over the past years while total numbers have fallen by 16% over the past two years.

However, Ms Baillie said these reductions do not offset cuts to frontline staff.

”We simply cannot allow the number of nurses, midwives and hospital staff to continue to plummet while the demands on our NHS grow,” she said.

”The increasing number of routine failures in patient care being discovered by inspectors is a direct consequence of the SNP’s unwillingness to properly staff our hospitals.”

Conservative health spokesman Jackson Carlaw said: ”It is hard to believe that with such a significant cull of positions such vital services have not been impacted.

”Health spending in Scotland is protected, so there is no excuse for the Scottish Government to aimlessly swing the axe at the nursing and midwifery headcount.”

Liberal Democrat health spokeswoman Alison McInnes said she was pleased the ”cumbersome tier of senior management” had been cut back but warned it is ”barely a fig leaf” for the ongoing reduction in frontline staff.

Royal College of Nursing Scotland associate director Norman Provan added: ”With cuts to the nursing workforce already well under way this year, health boards need to be clear about how they are going to manage these cuts, invest in community services and still provide a quality health service.

”How this will be done remains to be seen but we will continue to work with health boards as they face difficult decisions as we want what is best for patient care across Scotland.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said: ”There are more qualified nurses now than in September 2006 and there are substantially more qualified nurses and midwives per 1,000 population in Scotland than the rest of the UK, with 7.9 nurses and midwives compared to 5.9 in England, 7.2 in Wales and 7.6 in Northern Ireland.

”The provision of NHS care is shifting to meet the needs of patients and we are supporting NHS boards to provide high-quality nursing in the community — and there are more nurses and midwives working in the community now than in September 2006.”