Record number of nursing and midwifery vacancies in Fife as services are stretched

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A record high number of nursing and midwifery vacancies in Fife has been branded “deeply concerning” at a time when health services are already stretched and struggling.

Fife Labour MSP Alex Rowley has written to NHS Fife’s chief executive asking what action is being taken to address staffing shortages after official statistics revealed a significant rise in unfilled posts in the past year.

The worrying trend has seen the number of nursing and midwifery vacancies across the Kingdom soar to 342, which is around 8% of posts and represents the highest level ever in the region.

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Mr Rowley believes urgent remedies are required to avoid putting patient safety at risk, although NHS FIfe has said challenges in recruiting qualified staff are being experienced by health boards across the country.

Victoria Hospital, maternity department entrance (Pic: Fife Photo Agency)Victoria Hospital, maternity department entrance (Pic: Fife Photo Agency)
Victoria Hospital, maternity department entrance (Pic: Fife Photo Agency)

Around 40 nurses and midwives have been recruited internationally and are due to arrive in the Kingdom within a matter of months, while ex-army personnel are also being specifically asked to help boost numbers.

That said, Mr Rowley believes more has to be done to curb the NHS’ continuing staffing crisis before more serious consequences arise.

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“NHS nursing staff have never been under such intense pressure and the additional vacancies are driving existing staff to consider leaving the profession,” he said.

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Alex RowleyAlex Rowley
Alex Rowley

“The Scottish Government should listen to the calls from the Royal College of Nursing and act now by bringing in a fair pay rise for nursing staff, develop proper workforce planning and fully implement safe staffing legislation.

“It is crucial that NHS Fife demonstrate what actions they are taking to recruit the staff we need but also to support the existing staff deal with the pressures when they are so understaffed.

“Our nurses, and indeed all NHS staff, have been working flat out throughout the pandemic and deserve all of our respect.

“This is why it is so vital we make sure action is taken to address existing staff burnout and recruit more people into the profession.”

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The rise in vacant nursing and midwifery posts in Fife has been marked in the last year in particular.

A year ago there were 250 vacancies in the region, 92 fewer than at present, and as such there was less reliance on the use of costly agency and/or bank nurses.

In response to Mr Rowley’s concerns, NHS Fife associate director of nursing, Nicola Robertson, said the health board has been “recruiting extensively” throughout the pandemic.

She explained: “There are considerable pressures on nursing staffing, and recruitment is undoubtedly challenging due to there being a limited supply of suitably qualified or experienced staff, coupled with the need for an expanded nursing workforce due to the pandemic and the subsequent vaccination programme.

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“A number of programmes are currently ongoing which are successfully assisting us in increasing our qualified nursing workforce.

“A specific effort is also ongoing to target qualified former military personnel to work on our wards and in our communities.

“Importantly, however, we are not simply recruiting qualified nurses but also expanding the wider team supporting our frontline clinicians, such as our administrative and clinical support staff.

“Indeed, in excess of 90 people were interviewed for such vacancies last month alone and we are currently expanding our nurse bank to widen the pool of non-qualified clinical support we have available to us.”

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