Labour Shines Spotlight On NHS Staffing

22 July 2017, 09:03 | Updated: 22 July 2017, 09:06

Doctor Generic

The doctor tasked with chairing a Labour study into NHS staffing says the issue is ''undoubtedly'' one of the biggest challenges the health service is facing.

Scottish Labour announced Dr Miles Mack, chairman of the Royal College of General Practitioners, is to head up its NHS and Social Care Workforce Commission.

The move was announced as Labour health spokesman Anas Sarwar claimed moral amongst workers in the NHS is at ''rock bottom''.

The establishment of the commission comes as the Scottish Government continues to come under pressure over vacancies within the NHS, with the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) warning in the June that there are ''too few nurses''.

The Government later announced an extra 2,600 training places for nurses and midwives will be created over the next four years.

But Mr Sarwar said a decade of the SNP in government in Edinburgh had resulted in ''severe shortages'', as he claimed NHS staff are ''overworked, undervalued, under-resourced and underpaid''.

Dr Mack said: ``The workforce shortage within health and social care is undoubtedly one of the biggest challenges faced by the NHS as it responds to population changes across Scotland.

''This workforce commission is an opportunity to take a detailed look, with other independent stakeholders, at the situation as it is now and devise evidence-based recommendations for the future.''

Labour stressed Dr Mack is not a member of the party, and said he will remain politically neutral while the group carries out its work.

Other commission members include RCN director Theresa Fyffe, Kim Hartley Keen of the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists, June Andrews, professor of dementia studies, Dave Watson of the public services union Unison, and John Marr from the GMB trade union's Scottish Ambulance Service branch.

They will consider how best to determine the appropriate numbers of training places for health workers, and look to develop a strategy for attracting and retaining staff to the NHS. The experts will also look at how changes to Scotland's population could impact on workforce requirements.

Mr Sarwar said: ''A decade of SNP mismanagement has left our NHS staff overworked, undervalued, under-resourced and underpaid. We have severe shortages of NHS staff including nurses, midwives, GPs and consultants. This is now starting to impact on services and patient care too, with a number of services under threat as we simply don't have the staff to operate them.

''Staff morale is at rock bottom in the health service, with staff reporting there simply aren't enough of them to do the job properly.

''This is part of the legacy left by Nicola Sturgeon who as health secretary slashed the number of training places for nurses and midwives. We now have a Health Secretary, Shona Robison, who is out of her depth and out of ideas. That is why our health service is in desperate need for a meaningful workforce plan.''

Mr Sarwar went on: ''Our commission will bring together professionals from across the NHS, representing different sectors, who will together examine the underlying causes for this staffing crisis and importantly develop a strategy and policies to address them.

''I am delighted that we have managed to attract widely respected and experienced individuals who know our NHS so well.

''Labour has already led the way in defending our NHS and standing up for NHS staff. We are campaigning across the country to protect local services under threat from the SNP and we brought forward the proposal to scrap the pay cap on NHS staff, which was sadly rejected by the SNP in May.

''With our work on the commission we hope to go further and build a clear and ambitious workforce plan that builds staff morale, makes working in the NHS a more attractive career choice, and helps deliver an NHS and social care system fit for the 21st century.''

A spokesman for Ms Robison hit back and said: ''Labour's hypocrisy on health is staggering - when they were in office they threatened to close A&E units which were only saved by the SNP.

''And it is the SNP government which has delivered record high NHS funding as well as an all-time high numbers of doctors, nurses and other staff across the NHS in Scotland - an overall increase of more than 12,000 over the last decade.

''We will increase health spending even further - unlike Labour's plans at the last Scottish election which saw them pledge even less money for the NHS than the Tories.''