Student nurse numbers in Scotland 'at six-year low'

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The number of nurses training in Scotland is at its lowest level for six years, the Scottish Conservatives say.

Analysing latest official statistics, the party said there were 9,661 nurses in training last year, a drop of more than 500 from the previous year.

The Scottish government said nursing and midwifery student intakes were based on "careful strategic planning".

But the Tories said "unnecessary millions" were being spent on using bank and agency nurses to "plug gaps".

'Budgets tight'

Health spokesman Jackson Carlaw said that while the number of first-year entrants to nursing training increased in 2013/14, the intake of 2,911 was still the second lowest since the turn of the millennium.

"We are all too aware that with an increasing and ageing population, there is going to be more pressure on nursing resources in coming years," he said.

"So quite why the SNP has presided over a system where fewer are being trained up is a mystery.

"We've got the facilities to be developing our own nurses, but find ourselves in this incredible position where health boards are having to scour the globe for staff. On the basis of these statistics, that problem is only going to get worse."

He called on ministers to improve forward planning and enough nurses were recruited and trained to cope with "future challenges".

He added: "It's no wonder NHS budgets are so tight when so many unnecessary millions are spent plugging gaps."

A Scottish government spokeswoman said: "Over the past two years the Scottish government has increased the number of students entering funded nursing and midwifery pre-registration courses.

"We have supported national initiatives that improve recruitment and retention, and in recent years have seen an increase in the number of students completing the three-year course - from 1,906 in 2009/10 to 2,226 in 2013/14.

"In the last year alone, over 1,000 extra whole-time equivalent qualified nurses and midwives have started working in Scotland's NHS and we know that to increase this further we must continue to train the appropriate number of nurses and midwives to be able to provide the best possible care for the future."

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