Scottish Labour have warned the next first minister that the NHS “cannot survive” if the workforce crisis is not resolved.
Humza Yousaf, Kate Forbes and Ash Regan are in the SNP leadership race to replace Nicola Sturgeon as party leader and first minister.
In a warning to Ms Sturgeon’s successor, Jackie Baillie, Scottish Labour’s health spokeswoman, called for an end to “more than a decade of failed workforce planning” under the Scottish Government.
There were some 6,319 nursing and midwifery vacancies across Scotland as of September 2022.
And the Royal College of Nursing warned last month of the issues with staff retention amid a 13% increase in the number of nurses who left the register.
The Scottish Government’s recovery strategy aims to hire 800 new GPs by 2027 and 1,000 additional mental health staff, however Audit Scotland warned last month that these targets were “unlikely to be met”.
Speaking ahead of a visit to the British Heart Foundation’s Cardiovascular Research Centre in Glasgow, Ms Baillie said the issues date back to Ms Sturgeon’s time as health secretary where nursing training places were cut, but she said the NHS had reached “crisis” under current Health Secretary Mr Yousaf.
She said: “The next first minister must make NHS workforce planning a priority, because the health service cannot survive more of the same.
“Nicola Sturgeon made the cuts at the root of this crisis and Humza Yousaf has let things escalate even further.
“This cannot continue – these staffing shortages are at the heart of the chaos in our NHS, leaving dedicated NHS staff exhausted and putting patients at risk.
“The current NHS workforce plan is not worth the paper it’s written on.
“After more than a decade of failed workforce planning under the SNP, we need change.”
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “NHS Scotland staffing has grown to historically high levels, by well in excess of 20% since September 2006, with staffing (WTE) increases of approaching 30,000 in that time.
“Over the same time period medical and dental consultants have increased by nearly 66%, A&E consultants have more than tripled and registered nurses and midwives have grown by over 10%. In fact we’ve seen a decade of consecutive years of staffing growth.
“We are working with stakeholders to develop alternative career pathways for nursing and midwifery which will allow people to study and work at the same time as they progress their career.
“These new routes aim to attract new employees to NHS Scotland and at the same time offer existing staff opportunities to develop and progress towards registered roles.
“Our new nursing and midwifery taskforce will look at measures to improve working conditions for nurses and midwives as well as boost workforce numbers.”