Health bosses face timebomb race to replace generation of nurses

Health bosses are drawing up a strategy after it was revealed that only nine per cent of their workforce are under the age of 30 '“ as the Capital's ageing population is set to hamper staffing levels.

Saturday, 29th December 2018, 9:01 am
Updated Thursday, 3rd January 2019, 8:21 am
Only nine per cent of the workforce are under the age of 30, say Edinburghs health chiefs. Picture: Greg Macvean

A top officer at NHS Lothian has admitted the current make-up of the workforce in Edinburgh is a “significant challenge” to the future of providing health and social care services.

The Edinburgh Health and Social Care Partnership is putting together transformation plans on how it will deliver care to a growing ageing population in the city. Edinburgh faces a 71 per cent rise from 2016 to 2041 in households headed by someone over 75 years old.

The partnership’s draft 2019-22 strategic plan states: “The successful delivery of high quality health and social care services is underpinned by having an appropriately resourced, trained and qualified workforce.

“Unfortunately, we are facing significant challenges relating to our workforce. We know that many of our nurses are entitled to retire in the next few years, which will leave a gap. We have identified the extent of the issues within our workforce plan and are working with the Scottish Government, universities and colleges to try to address some of this shortage.

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“This year we have had a particular focus on care at home due to the challenges recruiting and retaining staff, and subsequently organisations not being able to provide packages of care which leads to people waiting in the community and in hospital.”

Analysis of staff in the north west quarter of the city found that 30 per cent of district nurses are over 50 years of age.

Colin Briggs, director of strategic planning at NHS Lothian, said: “Only nine per cent of our workforce is under 30, which is very much smaller than the number that is just coming up to retirement. That provides us with a significant challenge.

“We have 24 staff over the age of 70 and seven under the age of 20 – broadly that summarises the challenge we have as an organisation going forward.”

He added: “We have an ageing population which not only requires greater support for people in the community but it also means that our workforce is not necessarily in the distribution that we would want it to be. That is thought-provoking for us.”

Service user representative on the Edinburgh Integration Joint Board (EIJB), Carole Macartney, said the workforce forecast was “crucial to planning longer-term”, while NHS Lothian board member Richard Williams said “there are significant concerns about primary care workforce going forward”.