The Scottish public is avoiding using NHS Scotland services in an attempt to prevent further pressures on the system.
More than 4 in 10 Scottish adults (44%) said they had avoided using NHS services at least once in the last 12 months when they felt unwell or needed treatment – 32% said they had done this on multiple occasions.
When asked why they chose not to seek care, over two fifths (42%) said they had acted to avoid putting additional pressure on the NHS, while almost half (47%) said they thought they would have to wait too long.
The YouGov polling also highlighted concerns with the standard of care. Of the 34% who were not confident that the care and treatment they received would be of a good standard, the majority (68%) attributed their concerns to there not being enough nurses and nursing staff to provide adequate care.
The findings come as the Royal College of Nursing’s NHS strike ballot enters its final week and ahead of a Scottish Labour Party debate in the Scottish Parliament on supporting the NHS in Winter. RCN members working in NHS Scotland are being urged to vote in favour of strike action for the first time in the College’s 106-year history. The vote comes after years of real terms pay cuts, under investment and the pandemic response has left Scotland’s nursing workforce exhausted, demoralised and concerned for the future of their profession.
Scotland’s public have shown their support for the need to invest in and value nursing staff – 80% of Scottish adults support nurses being given a pay rise in line with inflation and 78% would sympathise with nursing staff if they were to go on strike.
RCN members overwhelmingly rejected the Scottish Government’s 5% pay offer earlier this year. While the latest offer from the Scottish Government, made last week, is an improvement for the lowest paid, it is a further pay cut for registered nurses and fails to recognise their clinical skills and safety critical role.
Colin Poolman, RCN Scotland Director said:
“Strike action is always a last resort. That it has come to this demonstrates just how concerned our members are for the safety of their patients, how undervalued and demoralised they are feeling and how frustrated they are at the Scottish government’s continued failure to listen and act.
“Our members have the support of the public who can see the devasting impact that nursing staff shortages are having on the care they and their families receive. Scottish government must do better if Scotland is to have the nursing workforce it needs. It is not a decision to be taken lightly but I would urge members to vote in favour of strike action and to post back their ballot papers now.”
The RCN strike ballot continues until 2 November while elected members consider the Scottish government’s latest offer and the next steps.