Scottish Liberal Democrat health spokesperson Alex Cole-Hamilton MSP has warned that the Scottish Government's handling of NHS workforce planning is proceeding at a “snail’s pace” as the Health Secretary revealed this morning that the integrated health and social care workforce plan will be delayed once again.
In response to a parliamentary question on 16 November 2018, Health Secretary Jeane Freeman said the publication date for the plan is "likely to move from December to January 2019." However, a government spokesperson today would only say that work was underway on the plan and that it would be published in 2019.
This comes despite the Auditor General identifying significant workforce challenges facing the health service, including difficulties in staff recruitment and increases in sickness absence and staff turnover.
The previous iteration of this work, a three-part National Health and Social Care Workforce Plan, was delayed by up to a year.
Mr Cole-Hamilton said:
"The NHS is facing serious challenges in recruiting staff at every level, but frustratingly the SNP Government’s work to remedy this is proceeding at a snail’s pace.
"It did nothing to avert the current staffing crisis in the first place. Now, the deadline for this latest instalment has been pushed and pushed and pushed, just like the plans that came before it. Staff are tired of waiting.
"The Health Secretary should commit to publishing an annual report on workforce planning and lead an annual debate on it at Parliament. That would mean future failings can be rectified before we reach crisis point, and patients and staff can be reassured that ministers have a grip of staffing from training through to retirements.”
Notes to editors:
- The Scottish Government committed to publish a 2017/18 National Health and Social Care Workforce Plan in Spring 2017. It was subsequently split into parts, with the first published in June 2017. The second part (social care) was then promised in Autumn 2017, before being published in December 2017. The third part (primary care) was promised “later” in 2017, before being pushed back to “early 2018”, and later March 2018. It was finally published on 30 April 2018.
- The Scottish Government has described the integrated plan as "the next iteration of this work".