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Tuesday, 20 August, 2002, 12:01 GMT 13:01 UK
Rise in nursing shortage
Nurses on ward
The number of nursing vacancies has risen
The number of unfilled nursing posts in Scotland is rising, according to the latest health service statistics.

Between October 2001 and March this year, the rate of nursing and midwifery vacancies rose by 0.4% to 3.6%.

The Scottish National Party (SNP) described the figures as "shocking" and claimed that there had been a 46% rise in vacancies since 1999.

Health Minister Malcolm Chisholm said he regretted the increase, which was partly down to there being more posts available to fill.

Nicola Sturgeon
Nicola Sturgeon: "Growing crisis"
The latest statistics show that the number of full-time nursing and midwife vacancies rose by 193 to 1,869 over the six month period.

Intensive care and maternity nursing saw the biggest rise in vacancies, while elderly care, mental health and district nursing saw the lowest rise.

SNP health spokeswoman Nicola Sturgeon accused the Scottish Executive of making expensive blunders.

"The Labour executive has manifestly failed to deal with the crisis in nurse recruitment," she said.

'Vacancy rate'

"Rather than actually tackle this growing crisis, the executive has relied more and more on agency nurses, at a cost of nearly 25m last year alone.

"This is not the answer, and actually increases the burden that the taxpayer has to pay."

Mr Chisholm said there had been "unprecedented" efforts to tackle nursing recruitment and retention.

Malcolm Chisholm
Malcolm Chisholm regrets the increase
"I regret the increase in the vacancy rate for nursing and midwifery posts, but it is partly a consequence of there being more posts available to fill," he said.

"The most recent figures show an increase of over 900 whole-time-equivalent nurses and midwives between September 2000 and 2001."

"We have invested in return-to-practice programmes, and, for example, we are funding 250 more student nurses this academic year."

Mr Chisholm said the executive will provide cash for additional students this year in professions allied to medicine, such as physiotherapy, radiography, and speech, language and drama therapy.

See also:

23 Jul 02 | Scotland
16 Jul 02 | Scotland
05 Jul 02 | Scotland
15 Aug 01 | Scotland
13 Dec 00 | Scotland
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