Rise in vacancies shouldn’t impact on patients

RESPINDING to concerns from Berwickshire MSP John Lamont, NHS Borders says that a rise in the number of midwifery and nursing vacancies should not jeopardise patient care.

Speaking to ‘The Berwickshire News’ last week, Mr Lamont highlighted the fact that the number of nursing and midwifery vacancies in NHS Borders shot up over the last year, reaching a three year high. The health board currently has a total of 33.5 full time equivalent vacancies, significantly higher than the 4.3 registered at the same time last year.

He commented: “The nurses and midwives working in our health service do a tremendous job and without their efforts our healthcare system would simply not function. They all carry out vital tasks that help to save lives and ensure the smooth delivery of hundreds of services.

“It is therefore hugely concerning that NHS Borders currently have so many vacancies running within our region. While we can always expect some posts to be temporarily vacant, the number of empty posts has risen hugely compared to previous years.

“We now have eight times more vacancies than last year and it raises serious questions about what effect this is having on the service provided to local patients. Not only will current staff be placed under significant strain, it will understandably cause delays to patients requiring treatments as there are fewer people qualified to carry it out.”

However, NHS Borders claims that despite the sharp rise in midwife and nurse positions, the health board still has the second lowest number in Scotland and patients won’t be unduly affected.

“We are committed to delivering high quality and safe patient care at all times,” a spokesperson said.

“So across all services we have worked in partnership to review our nursing and midwifery establishments, taking account of the needs of different services. The higher number of vacancies than previous years indicates that NHS Borders is actively recruiting nursing and midwifery staff, as workforce establishments are approved.

“In the meantime our Nursing and Midwifery Bank provides a value for money solution and ensures temporary staff are appointed to provide the right staffing levels. NHS Borders efficiently engages bank nurses to ensure safe provision of our services as part of a supplementary workforce to cover unplanned gaps including vacancies.”