NURSING vacancies in Glasgow hospitals have more than doubled in two years, leading to staff concerns about patient safety.

The latest report showed there were 2075 nursing and midwifery vacancies in Greater Glasgow and Clyde health board, a rate of 11.2%. It is higher than the Scottish figure of 9%.

In June last year the number was 1283 and in March 2020 before the Covid pandemic the number was 1020, a rate of 6.2%.

A high number of current vacancies have been unfilled for more than three months with 640 long-term vacancies and 80 unfilled for six months.

Nursing leaders are worried about the effect on both staff and patients.

Barbara Sweeney, senior officer, RCN Scotland, said: “The number of empty posts in NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde is extremely worrying.

“Nursing staff are telling us of their concerns for patient safety and the impact having to cover shortages is having on their wellbeing.

"Urgent action is needed to address the challenges facing the nursing workforce.

“This includes a clear timetable for implementation of Scotland’s safe staffing legislation, fair pay to support recruitment and retention and improvements to the workplace culture to ensure nursing is truly valued as the safety critical profession it is.”

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Most of the vacancies were in adult nursing, accounting for 1679, mental health vacancies totalled 843, and district nursing had the third highest rate with 259 jobs unfilled.

There were 162 vacant posts in paediatric nursing and 148 in other departments.

Public Health Scotland, which collated the figures, said: “The Office of National Statistics say high vacancy rates in the public sector could indicate that current staff have a larger workload to cope with staff shortages.

“High vacancy rates may be caused by low retention or challenges in recruiting new staff. Recruiting challenges could be because of wage competition, or from simply not wanting to work in the public sector.”

A spokesperson for NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde said: “We greatly value the work and commitment from all of our nursing staff throughout the pandemic. They have gone above and beyond to deliver excellent services to our patients.

"As is the situation across the country, we continue to have a number of vacancies which are actively being recruited to and we are managing staff absence as Covid-19 recovery continues.

"In the last year alone we have welcomed more than nearly 1400 new nurses and midwives and nearly 1300 healthcare support workers.

"NHSGGC is the largest health board in Scotland with around 40,000 staff and the agency costs are proportionate to this.

"In recent years, Covid-19 has presented unique staffing challenges which means we’ve had to utilise more agency and bank staff than normal to be able to deliver the services required.

"We welcome all feedback from our staff and will work in partnership with our trade unions and professional organisations, including our local RCN representatives, to discuss any points of concern that we can address through specific action plans.

"We recognise that it has been a challenging time for our workforce both at work and home and we will continue to support our staff with a range of wellbeing initiatives which have been developed following feedback from our workforce."