The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) is correct to be concerned about the planned change to UK immigration policy. However, the grievance heavy response from the SNP Government leaves one question goes unasked. Why does Scotland need to import nurses from outside the EU which have been trained at great expense to their own government?
The answer is simple – Nicola Sturgeon cut nurse training in Scotland when she was the Scottish Health Secretary. She cut the number of nurses entering training over three years from 3,600 to just 2,430 in 2012/13 claiming that her cuts reflected “emerging employment trends in NHS Scotland”. Indeed, when challenged by the RCN in 2012, Ms Sturgeon claimed her cuts were the “sensible way forward”. At the time, the RCN was clear that the cuts would result in a real risk that there would “not be enough professionally qualified nurses graduating” between 2015-18.
Events have shown that Ms Sturgeon should have listened to the RCN. In Scotland 75% of nurses think that wards are understaffed and 10% can’t take time away from their ward to undertake mandatory training. In January we found that stress-related sick days among nurses in Scotland had risen by 34%. We have also see that understaffing is at the core of the failure the A&E service to meet waiting time targets in Scotland.
So let’s not let the SNP Government blame any staffing problems in NHS Scotland on the UK government’s immigration policy. The blame lies on their doorstep.