Scotland politics

NHS Scotland reports staffing at record high

Hospital staff with patient on trolley Image copyright Thinkstock

Official figures have indicated the number of staff working in NHS Scotland has reached a record high.

But the use of agency nurses and midwives has increased substantially for the third year running.

Health secretary Shona Robison said the government was providing people with "the high-quality healthcare they deserve".

The Conservatives said the use of agency staff showed there were not enough people to cover essential work.

The figures showed that, at the end of March, 161,656 people were employed by the NHS in Scotland.

Since 2006, the workforce - excluding GPs and dentists - has increased by 9%.

Ms Robison said: "Under this government, NHS staff numbers have risen significantly, with more consultants, nurses and midwives and allied health professionals now delivering care for the people of Scotland."

She added: "In addition to having record staffing levels, Scotland is leading the UK in developing mandatory nursing and midwifery workload and workforce planning tools that help health boards to plan for the number of staff they require, ensuring the best possible care for patients.

"We know our NHS faces many pressures and is treating more patients, with more complex illnesses, than ever before.

"Despite these pressures, the fantastic staff working in the NHS continue to deliver high-quality care."

Agency cover

The Scottish Conservatives raised concerns about the continuing use of nurses hired through agencies.

Health spokesman Donald Cameron said: "This is a clear indication that there are not enough staff to cover Scotland's wards.

"Everyone accepts there will be times when cover needs to be called in, and that it comes at a price.

"But for millions of hours to be covered by non-permanent members of staff is quite incredible."

Scottish Labour health spokesman Anas Sarwar said: "We have seen from the GP crisis and consultant vacancies rates that the SNP government has utterly botched workforce planning in our NHS, meaning our hospitals have to turn to expensive agency staff to deliver the care patients need.

"At a time when only a third of NHS staff feel there is enough of them to do their job properly, it will leave a sour taste in the mouth that so much is being spent on agency staff."

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