SCOTTISH LABOUR accused the SNP of presiding over the “biggest nursing crisis in the history of the NHS” yesterday after revealing that private nursing agencies are pocketing millions from the NHS.
The Scottish government spent almost £60 million on private agency nurses between 2011 and 2016 and spending on agency nurses had risen from £3,939,107 in 2011-12 to a staggering £23,483,000 in 2015-16.
Scottish Labour said the problem was down to a growing number of vacancies for permanent posts, and blasted First Minister Nicola Sturgeon for cutting training places for nurses and midwives by a fifth as well as slashing 2,000 nursing jobs when she was health minister.
There are now more than 2,200 unfilled nursing vacancies in NHS Scotland, including 292 mental-health nurse vacancies and 840 in NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde.
The total spent across the NHS in 2015-16 was £3.6 billion, up from £3.3bn the previous year and £2.5bn the year before.
Scottish Labour has also warned that staff were “overworked and undervalued,” citing the latest NHS staff survey, which found that only one third of NHS staff thought there are enough of them to do their jobs properly.
Similarly, a Royal College of Nursing survey found that only 12.8 per cent of Scotland’s nurses believe that the health service is able to meet demand or exceed expectations.
Scottish Labour health spokesman Anas Sarwar said: “We are in the middle of the biggest nursing crisis in the history of the NHS, yet the SNP Health Minister appears determined to stick her head in the sand and deny a problem even exists.”
Mr Sarwar accused the Scottish government of letting nurses down with NHS staff “under-resourced” while the government was spending increasing amounts of money on private agency staff.
He said: “This shows that the SNP government has lost control and failed miserably with workforce planning. This money would be much better spent recruiting and supporting NHS nurses.”
Health Mininster Shona Robison said agency staff accounted for only 0.4 per cent of the NHS workforce, and the total spent on agency nurses and midwives was 11.3 per cent lower than a decade ago.
Ms Robison said: “We know more needs to be done to reduce agency use.
“Earlier this year we launched a new initiative to drive down the cost and use of all temporary agency staff.”