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23 December 2017, 06:13
Scottish Conservatives have warned the staffing "crisis" at Scottish hospitals could get worse as figures show nearly one in five nurses are 55 or older.
A total of 18.8% of nurses and midwives in Scotland are in that age group, up marginally from 17.9% in 2016 and 17.1% in 2015.
Analysis of official ISD Scotland statistics show that as of this year 12,791 nurses were aged 55 or over, up more than 1,000 from 2015.
Figures showed 3,882 were over 60 and 556 over the age of 65.
Public spending watchdog Audit Scotland warned earlier this year that the ageing workforce was part of "urgent workforce challenges" facing the NHS in a report which highlighted that spending on agency staff rose by 10% between 2011/12 and 2016/17 to £171.4 million.
Scottish Conservative health spokesman Miles Briggs said: "The NHS is already struggling to ensure wards are sufficiently staffed.
"With thousands of nurses contemplating retirement over the next few years, this crisis could get even worse.
"The SNP has known about this challenge for several years, yet has done next to nothing to prepare for it.
The SNP will no doubt blame austerity, or blame Brexit but these are long-term problems built up entirely on the nationalists' watch - it is solely their responsibility."
A Scottish Government spokesman said: "This government has delivered an all-time record high number of staff in Scotland's NHS - including more nurses.
"But Brexit - and the UK Government's determination to end free movement of workers - threatens our ability to continue to secure skilled staff for our health service."
SNP MSP Clare Haughey said: "The Tories have a brass neck complaining about NHS staffing issues when they are doing more than anyone else to cut off the supply of health workers with their extreme Brexit.
"Figures from the Nursing and Midwifery Council have shown that not only are significantly fewer nurses coming to the UK from the EU because of Brexit, but nurses are also leaving the UK in droves.
"The SNP will take absolutely no lectures from the Tories when it comes to protecting our NHS."
The Nursing and Midwifery Council figures released earlier this year have showed the number of nurses coming from the EU to the UK is down 89% since the Brexit vote and indicated a 67% rise in the number of nurses and midwives leaving the NHS UK-wide.