Official figures show that, between September 2010 and March this year, the number of Scottish nursing and midwifery staff in post fell by 1.2% (just over 700).
In a week which has seen DUP health minister Edwin Poots warn of thousands of job losses to come in the health service in Northern Ireland, and doctors making clear they prefer the way the NHS is working in Wales rather than England, with official figures in Scotland show that, between September 2010 and March this year, the number of nursing and midwifery staff in post fell by 1.2% (a cut of more than 700).
The data, released by Scotland’s Information Services Division, reveals:
• Overall, total headcount in the Scottish NHS fell between September 2010 and March 2011 by 1.2%;
• The number of Whole Time Equivalent Hospital, Community and Public Health Services (HCHS) medical and dental staff in the same period fell by 0.2%.
The figures come despite the SNP’s assertion in its manifesto for May’s elections (page 14) that:
“We have increased the number of consultants, doctors, nurses, dentists, emergency workers and cleaners in the NHS since 2007.”
Commenting on the results, Labour’s shadow health secretary and leadership contender, Jackie Baillie, argued:
“The SNP said they would cut NHS managers, but it is clear from these new figures that it is frontline nurses that are being forced to bear the brunt of the SNP’s cuts – it is simply unacceptable.
“There are real concerns about patient care and increased risk of hospital acquired infections like C. diff, as staff struggle to cope.”
For the Scottish government, however, the figures are part of a much broader package of measures designed to improve services.
Health secretary Nicola Sturgeon explained:
“Over the last 12 months we have seen NHS boards deliver a planned reduction in the NHS workforce and the number of acute beds, while at the same time increasing activity and improving quality.
“We now have the best waiting times performance and the lowest levels of healthcare associated infection on record. When taken together these indicators suggest that our approach to quality and efficiency is beginning to deliver positive changes in our health services.”
The latest news on jobs within the NHS comes within a context of figures showing that the total number of people employed in the public sector in Scotland between the first quarters of 2010 and 2011 fell by 11,600 (2%), when public sector financial institutions were not included.
Over the same period there were 52,000 more people employed in the private sector and in total the public sector, excluding financial institutions, accounting for 23.3% of total employment north of the border, down from 25.7% in the first quarter of 2010.
Commenting on the figures, finance secretary John Swinney explained:
“In this constrained financial climate, the Scottish Government is committed to reforming public services as well as improving performance and keeping a focus on the outcomes that matter to us all.
“We are making progress by working with partners across the public sector. Our no compulsory redundancies agreement, for staff under the control of Ministers, has been extended for a further year and we are committed to protecting employment where we can to maintain and support capacity in the economy.
“The simplification programme is on track to exceed our target of reducing the number of public bodies by 25 per cent. The number has already reduced from a baseline of 199 to 147, and on present plans will reduce further to 115 or fewer. This will deliver estimated savings of around £125 million by 2013 and estimated recurring savings of around £39 million per annum thereafter.”
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