THE vacancy rate for nurses and midwives in NHS Lothian has reached the highest level ever – having more than trebled in the last year and leaving one in 20 posts empty.
Scottish Goverment figures show as of March 31 the vacancy rate across the country was 4.5 per cent.
Nursing morale is low, and teams are struggling to recruit and retain the staff they needNorman Provan
However, the figure for NHS Lothian is 5 per cent with 506 vacancies, a rise of 233.7 per cent on the 151 vacancies in 2016.
The 506 vacancies includes 151 that have not been filled for more than three months – up from 44. The Royal College of Nurses (RCN) said there were “too few nurses” with staff now facing the reality of low morale and recruitment problems.
The high cost of living in Edinburgh is also a significant factor according to union bosses with cheaper accomodation and travel costs, including free parking, available in other parts of the country.
NHS Lothian has the second highest number of total nursing and midwifery vacancies second only to NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde.
RCN associate director Norman Provan said: “Today’s figures reflect the challenge faced by Scotland’s NHS.
“Across both acute and community settings, there are simply too few nurses.
“The Scottish Government can point to the increase in the number of nursing and midwifery staff, but the reality on the ground is that nurses wanting to do their very best for patients are too often coming up against the reality of vacancies in the workforce.
“Nursing morale is low, and teams are struggling to recruit and retain the staff they need. The 1 per cent cap on nursing pay is adding to the anger of nurses who are working under enormous pressure, constantly being asked to do more with less.
“The bottom line is that if there aren’t the nurses, patients won’t receive the care they need.”
Vacancies are being covered by staff looking to work extra shifts to supplement their wages which have had the cap imposed since 2011.
Health Secretary Shona Robison said the increase in vacancies was partly due to the creation of new posts in health boards.
She added: “Under this government, NHS staff numbers have risen to historically high levels, with more doctors and nursing staff now delivering care for the people of Scotland – including over 2000 additional qualified nurses and midwives.”
The total number of NHS Lothian staff has risen by around 0.9 per cent from 9744 in March 2016 to 10,084 as at March 2017, above the national average of 0.7 per cent year-on-year, which has taken the number of NHS staff in Scotland to 139,430.
Scottish Labour health spokesman Anas Sarwar said the “SNP workforce crisis is getting worse”.
He added: “No wonder nurses are heckling Nicola Sturgeon at TV appearances. She stopped running the health service to run a referendum campaign and the problems are coming home to roost.”