UNISON comment on First Minister’s legal pledge for minimum staffing levels in Scotland’s NHS

Matt McLaughlin, UNISON Scotland’s head of health, said: “UNISON is Scotland’s largest health union and, while a commitment to safe staffing levels should be commended, there is much to do before we can actively welcome it.

“The government’s workforce tools do a job, but they are neither robust enough nor intuitive enough to ensure that daily – sometimes hourly – pressures in wards are picked up and responded to. Our members have likened it more to a management device, which they have no direct ability to influence and which only looks at staffing once a year.

“While many health boards across Scotland have already used the tools to invest in nursing posts, in others it has simply led to an increase in bank and agency costs as they struggle to meet the demands of the service while cutting back on staff costs.  We don’t want to see health boards slashing staffing levels in other areas – occupational therapy, physiotherapy or even domestics and catering – to ensure they meet the legislative requirements of this announcement. That means real money will need to be found to ensure our NHS is properly and safely staffed in all areas.”

The union has also called for the Scottish Government to extend the principle to other staff groups.

He continued: “The First Minister’s commitment to minimum staffing acknowledges the direct link between staffing levels and high quality outcomes for patients but our NHS relies on many different professions to deliver patient care, not just nurses. They will be wondering when, and if, the First Minister is prepared to recognise their commitment also?”