Faster action is needed to improve the retention of nurses in Scotland, a union has warned.
The Royal College of Nursing Scotland said workforce challenges remain acute in the NHS.
In May this year, it called for a retention strategy as the numbers quitting the profession reached a decade high.
It has now published an update on progress, which it says is “much slower than needed”.
The union’s research found vacancies in hospitals and care homes are stubbornly high, while the number of places to study nursing at Scottish universities have not been filled this year or last year.
Colin Poolman, RCN Scotland director, said: “We believe our recommendations are key to helping tackle the nursing workforce crisis.
“But, as we say in our review of progress, the challenges remain stark. The NHS vacancy rate continues to run at an unsustainable level and social care is still facing major recruitment challenges.
“Two years of not hitting the target for new nursing students is a significant concern because of the impact on registered nurse numbers in the future.
“We won’t give up our efforts to press for meaningful improvements. Last month, the agenda for change review process reported on its recommendations for reform for the NHS-wide pay scheme.”
Health secretary Michael Matheson said: “As the Deputy First Minster noted in her response to the UK Government’s Autumn Statement, it delivered a worst case scenario for Scotland’s finances. The financial pressures across health and social care are, by far, the most challenging since devolution.
“NHS Scotland staffing is at record levels, bolstered by our investment since autumn 2021 of some £18m to recruit 1,250 nurses, midwives and allied health professionals from overseas by the end of this financial year.
“The Scottish Government is working closely with the Royal College of Nursing as part of the Nursing and Midwifery Taskforce which seeks to develop alternative career pathways into these critical professions – recognising a growing interest in flexible learning models which allow students to earn and study at the same time.
“Following recent discussions with the RCN, we will consider the package of financial support offered to student nurses, which is already the best in the UK.”
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