NURSES: Union calls for government action amid ‘exodus of nursing staff’

New figures showed 13 per cent more employees leaving the profession in the 12 months to September 2022

Royal College of Nursing calls for Scottish Government action amid ‘exodus of nursing staff’

By Lucy Ashton

Scottish Government action is necessary to halt an “exodus of nursing staff”, union leaders have said.

It comes after new figures showed 13% more employees leaving the profession in the 12 months to September 2022.

A total of 2,690 nurses in Scotland left in that time period, coming off the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) register.

This was 314 more than in the previous 12 months, with Scotland seeing a higher increase in nurses leaving the profession than the 7% rise recorded in Wales, or the rises of 4% and 3% in England and Northern Ireland, respectively.

Meanwhile, there are currently more than 4,600 vacant registered nursing posts in NHS Scotland – meaning approximately 10% of all posts across the country are empty.

RCN Scotland director Colin Poolman said the number of nurses quitting showed the “dire state that ministers have allowed nursing to fall into”.

He called on the Scottish Government to not only deliver a “fair pay” settlement for nurses and safe staffing levels, but to also produce a nursing retention strategy that “sets out a plan to tackle the exodus of nursing staff from our profession”.

The anonymous staff nurse, who works on an acute hospital ward, added: “We are constantly being asked to give more time, more effort, cover more shifts, change our planned shifts – and that is not even taking into account Covid demands.

“This is all just down to the service being so short-staffed and unable to recruit or retain staff. Most of us can’t give any more. The workforce is exhausted.”

The Scottish Government is currently in talks with the RCN and other unions representing NHS staff over a pay settlement for 2023-24.

It comes after ministers imposed a pay deal which will give health workers an average 7.5% rise in December, which RCN nurses rejected.

Mr Poolman said at the time: “The increasing numbers of nurses leaving the profession speaks volumes about the dire state that ministers have allowed nursing to fall into through years of under-funding and neglect.

“The toll this takes on staff well-being cannot be overestimated.”

He continued: “It takes three years to educate a newly registered nurse and, on top of this, for every nurse who leaves the profession, valuable experience and expertise are lost.

“Many of those leaving will also have additional qualifications and experience of working in specialist roles.

“The Scottish Government needs to deliver fair pay and safe staffing and develop a nursing retention strategy that sets out a plan to tackle the exodus of nursing staff from our profession.”

Scottish Government has been approached for comment.

Responding to the news that there has been a 13% increase in the number of nurses who left the Nursing and Midwifery Council register in the 12 months up to September 2022, with 2,690 nurses leaving the profession in that time, Scottish Liberal Democrat leader and health spokesperson Alex Cole-Hamilton MSP, left,  said:   “This worrying exodus is yet another sign that the Health Secretary’s plan for NHS recovery is failing. Nurses are feeling burned out and undervalued. They need meaningful solutions, not another decade of SNP mismanagement.

“The government has been stubborn when it comes to easing the pressures, repeatedly opposing Scottish Liberal Democrat calls for a burnout prevention plan and an NHS staff assembly that values their expertise.

“Nurses have gone over and above the call of duty for too long. They need new hope. It’s time for the Cabinet Secretary to go back to the drawing board and come up with a proper workforce strategy that will boost recruitment, retention and safe staffing.”

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