RCN Scotland Sounds Warning Over Cost of Living Impact

Scotland’s nursing staff are continuing to struggle to make ends meet during the ongoing cost of living crisis.

In a survey of Royal College of Nursing members in Scotland, 62% have thought about changing their current role due to the cost of living and of these, 60% said they have been forced to think of leaving nursing altogether.

Over 60% of respondents to the survey, which was carried out in January this year, described themselves as being responsible for paying all household costs or as the main contributor. Three quarters said they were financially worse off when compared to 12 months ago.

The results come in the run up to the budget debate in the Scottish parliament later this week. The budget debate is happening at a crunch time for health and care services.

Health boards are being asked to make hefty efficiency savings or budget cuts. Some of the approaches health boards are looking at to deliver these savings – including recruitment freezes – are causing nursing staff serious concern.

The Scottish government is also yet to announce when it is going to implement the recommendations from last year’s Agenda for Change review, which was agreed as part of the 2023-24 pay deal.

At the same time, the Ministerial Nursing and Midwifery Taskforce is working on its recommendations to improve retention of experienced staff and attract new people into nursing while health boards are continuing preparations for implementation of Scotland’s safe staffing legislation from 1 April this year.

Commenting on the survey results, Colin Poolman, RCN Scotland Director, said:
“These results are really concerning. I feel for all nursing staff who, at the same time as they try to hold together services under extreme pressure and provide high quality care, are struggling to stay afloat financially.

“Since the pandemic we have seen growing numbers of staff quitting nursing altogether. Our results show that those numbers could rise even more steeply. That’s a trend health and social care services cannot afford to see with nursing vacancy rates already at stubbornly high levels.

“While budgets are tight right now, this is not the time to be pulling resources from the nursing workforce. We believe there are solutions but they require investment now.

“We’re calling on the Scottish government to act now. To fund the recommendations from the Agenda for Change Review quickly and in full and provide the financial resources to deliver the recommendations that emerge from the Nursing and Midwifery Taskforce. And to boost the financial support package for nursing students to help those currently in training to stay the course and attract the next generations of students. The Scottish government must also make sure employers have the resources they need to deliver safe staffing and to meet their duties under the Health and Care (Staffing) Act.”