Last week nurses from across Scotland came to lobby MSPs about their concerns as we run up to the Scottish Parliament elections. Royal College of Nursing (RCN) members presented us with a petition to ask us to listen to them to make sure the health service in Scotland is not only protected, but that patient care gets better and better.
When I’m out on the door steps talking to people I regularly meet health service workers worried about the pressures they are working under and the impact on patient care. In Edinburgh and the Lothians the combination of the UK Government’s VAT rise, inflation and the Scottish Government’s hike in Business Rates is putting pressure on NHS budgets and that means pressure on nursing numbers. This year 333 nursing and midwife posts are being lost in the Lothians.
As the result of a Freedom of Information request my colleague Jackie Baillie MSP recently uncovered the fact that last year NHS staff made over 1,500 complaints last year about short staffing in the health service. The highest number of complaints was made by staff in NHS Lothian, who reported 502 incidents of short staffing last year. The Health Board is in the process of cutting 734 jobs, including 333 nurses and midwives, according to its workforce plan. It is important that staff speak up so that we get the real picture of what’s happening in the NHS.
On Friday at a meeting with NHS Lothian I raised the issue of midwives and nursing staff working 12 hour shifts without breaks and the pressures on staff numbers. The constituent who alerted me to the pressure staff are under pointed out that it was simply not possible for staff to take their statutory breaks when women are giving birth if there’s not enough midwives and nurses on duty. The issue be investigated and I hope this will mean that the Board responds to the pressure that staff are working under.