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A modern health workforce

Published: 10 Feb 2016 11:00

First Minister sets out £27m to equip Scottish NHS for the future.

The NHS is set to receive a huge boost to workforce thanks to £27 million of Scottish Government funding to attract and retain the best talent into the healthcare profession whatever their background, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has announced.

In a major speech that sets out her vision for a modern NHS in Scotland, the First Minister announced the money alongside a range of initiatives to widen access to education across a range of professions over the next five years.

These include:

  • Funding of £3 million to train an additional 500 advanced nurse practitioners to bolster the skills of the profession and equip nurses across Scotland to maximise their leading role in the integrated health care of the future.
  • Over £23 million investment to increase the number of medical school places and widen access to medical schools with a new entry level programme for those from deprived backgrounds, and the first Scottish graduate entry programme for medicine that will support students who work in the Scottish NHS after they qualify.
  • The retention of a nursing and midwifery bursary, which alongside free tuition fees for student nurses and midwives will help attract the best people to train for nursing and midwifery roles.
  • The launch of a discretionary fund of at least £1 million for nursing and midwifery students experiencing financial hardship to provide a 'safety net' that will help them continue their studies.

Speaking at Queen Margaret University in Musselburgh, the First Minister said the compassion, commitment and professionalism of the entire health workforce was essential to the successful delivery of reform.

She also confirmed that the first National Clinical Strategy for Scotland would be published next week, setting out in detail how the NHS in Scotland will deliver a health and care service that meets the needs of people in Scotland in the decades to come.

The First Minister said:

"We need to make sure that we are training the right numbers of professionals - in and across different specialties - with the skills they need for the health service of the future.

"That's why this additional funding of £27 million is so crucial in ensuring the NHS in Scotland remains robust, resilient and ready for the challenges of the 21st Century.

"We've already invested heavily in the health and care workforce in the last 9 years. For example the NHS Scotland workforce has increased by more than 10,000 since 2007. But we need to build on that success.

"That's why we will step up our support for nurses and midwives. The Scottish Government is completely committed to retaining a nursing and midwifery bursary. We recognise the demands on those students, and we understand the importance of their role. So to make sure that we are well placed to attract the best young people - from all backgrounds - into the workforce, I am making a clear commitment today that we will retain free tuition and a nursing and midwifery bursary in Scotland.

"And we will take one additional step, based on what students have told us about their experiences. In the coming year, we will introduce a discretionary hardship fund for nursing and midwifery students to provide additional support for those who need it most.

"But it's very clear that if we're going to recruit the best possible workforce for the health and care service, we need to recruit from the widest possible talent pool - particularly in the medical profession.

"At present only 1 in 20 new doctors come from the most disadvantaged areas of our country; if we had truly equal access to the medical profession, that figure would be 1 in 5. That's not a reflection on the talent or aptitude of students from disadvantaged areas, it's an indication of how disadvantage acts as a barrier to equal opportunity. That's bad for those individuals who are denied a fair chance to enter a good career. And it's also bad for society as a whole - we lose out on too many of the talented and dedicated medics of the future.

"That's why we are confirming a number of measures to increase medical supply and widen access to medical schools. For example, we will make a new entry level programme available to help secondary school students from deprived backgrounds prepare more effectively for undergraduate medical education.

"We are also increasing the number of medical student places by 50 from this August. The importance of widening access to medical degrees will be a key priority as those extra places are being filled.

"Finally, we will launch Scotland's first graduate entry programme for medical students. That programme will include an offer to pay fees, which would be conditional on students agreeing to enter the NHS Scotland workforce when they qualify. It's a further way of ensuring that financial concerns don't deter talented graduates from studying and working in medicine - but also that we retain our best talent to work here in Scotland."

The First Minister continued:

"Advanced nurse practitioners are also hugely important. They already work closely with GPs, district nurses and other healthcare professionals. They potentially have an even bigger role to play in assessing, treating and diagnosing people in the community - during the day and out of hours. By doing so, they can help to provide better primary care for individuals and tackle delayed discharge rates.

"That's why I can confirm today that we will fund the training of a further 500 advanced nurse practitioners. The nursing profession in Scotland has a long and proud tradition – one which is rooted in enduring values of care, compassion and professionalism. By investing in training, we can ensure that nurses continue to play a hugely important role– applying those enduring values in the health and care service of the future."