Vale staff numbers drop by 300 and more cuts are on the way, says MSP
March 3, 2018 – These wonderful photographs of row after row of nurses at the opening of the Vale of Leven Hospital by Queen Elizabeth take us back to the day when the first district hospital to be completed under the then relatively new NHS was operating at full strength.
In the 1950s and for most of the rest of the 20th century, the Vale was a centre of excellence whilst today it is a centre of cuts and ongoing controversy.
Staffing issues hit the headlines again this week when it was revealed that unfilled nursing and midwifery posts in the health service have increased four-fold since Nicola Sturgeon cut training places as Health Secretary in 2011.
The new figures have been highlighted by local MSP Jackie Baillie.
The nursing and midwifery student intake dropped from 3,505 in 2010/11 to 2,713 in 2012/13.
That generation of students is soon to graduate – with the latest figures showing 2,789 unfilled nursing and midwifery posts in the health service.
That represents a 353 per cent increase in unfilled posts since 2011, when the first round of cuts began and the vacancies have steadily grown every year since.
Staff numbers at the Vale of Leven Hospital have fallen by almost 300 since 2008, including a 28% cut to nursing and midwifery staff.
Speaking in 2012, Nicola Sturgeon announced a cut of around 300 places for the 12/13 academic year Nicola Sturgeon said: “A reduction in intake for the 2012 academic year is a sensible way forward. The intake sets a balance between ensuring the right number of nurses and midwives for the future while also minimising the risk of oversupply and graduate unemployment.”
At the time Ms Baillie raised concerns and the Royal College of Nursing warned: “…all the evidence we’ve gathered shows that this further cut in numbers in 2012-13 risks there not being enough professionally qualified nurses graduating to meet the demand for health services in the future and that this cut will be bad for patient care.”
Labour claims it has now set up a Workforce Commission to develop a blueprint to fix the staffing crisis in the health service.
Jackie Baillie said: “When Nicola Sturgeon decided to slash training places for nurses and midwives, she claimed it was a sensible decision. Instead that generation of students graduate to a health service that has seen the number of unfilled posts soar every year since.
“The Vale of Leven Hospital has already lost almost 300 members of staff under the SNP and nursing and midwifery staff have borne the brunt of the cuts.
“If any other local employer had shed so many jobs there would be a national taskforce to rescue them, and cuts to training places will make it even harder to protect our local services.
“Our hospitals simply don’t have enough staff – and that is a consequence of decisions made by Nicola Sturgeon when she was Health Secretary.
“It was a spectacular error of judgement that has piled the pressure on our hospitals, and let patients down.
“Labour has established a Workforce Commission to develop a blueprint to fix the staffing crisis in our health service.”
Meanwhile, Ms Baillie has warned that the SNP Government’s announcement of NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde’s budget for 2018-19 will impose a real-terms cut on local health services.
The SNP Health Secretary Shona Robison confirmed to the Scottish Parliament that NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde’s budget will increase by 1.5% in 2018-19.
With NHS inflation forecast as at least 2% this year that means the health board will have less money to spend on local services for patients in Dumbarton, Vale of Leven, Helensburgh and Lomond.
The actual squeeze on spending could be even worse because the 2% figure does not take account of the fact that NHS staff are due a long-awaited pay rise this year.
Jackie Baillie said: “The SNP Government has tried to paint a rosy picture of the NHS budget allocation, detailing uplifts across all health boards. However, Shona Robison has completely ignored the fact that our NHS is under immense pressure due to increasing demand and the rising cost of medicines. The 1.5% budget uplift does not even give NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde enough money to stand still.
“In reality, this is a real term cut for our most valued public service. Increasing costs and a welcome pay rise for staff will pile more pressure on already tight budgets, putting even more local services at risk. The SNP has consistently failed give our NHS the resources it needs and the cracks are beginning to show.”
Ms Baillie is also fizzing that the SNP voted with the Tories in parliament this week to block a Labour amendment to deliver a child benefit top up of £5 per week.
SNP MSPs, with the support of the Conservatives, voted down the amendments by Scottish Labour which would have benefited almost 8,000 families in Dumbarton, Vale of Leven and Helensburgh.
Scottish Labour’s amendment would have delivered the ‘Give me 5’ campaign call to top-up child benefit.
The MSP said: “The amendment from Labour would have delivered a child benefit top up of £5 per week. This would have helped families right across Scotland and would benefit almost 8,000 families here in Dumbarton, the Vale of Leven and Helensburgh.
“The SNP and the Tories shamefully voted together to block our proposal, showing their true colours.
“They had the opportunity to lift children out of poverty right across the country but instead they voted together to stop it.”