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Government target of 50,000 new nurses needed as shortfall of nurses will impact adult social care

RCN warns against NCS as panacea for Scottish nurse workforce crisis

There is little assurance that the National Care Service in Scotland will embed and recognise nursing leadership and the role of nursing in social care.  

That is the conclusion of a new RCN report, Nursing Workforce in Scotland 2024 which calls for investment in both health and social care to recruit and retain the workforce required to meet increasingly complex needs.

At the same time, the report warns of increasing nurse vacancies in adult social care homes – currently, some 65 per cent of older people’s care homes report an increase in nurse vacancies – up from 48 per cent in 2020.  

An estimated total of 7,890 nurses work in independent or social care in Scotland – nearly half (46.8%) directly employed in care homes for adults. Half (50.1%) are employed by nursing agencies.  Of the approximately 3,700 registered nurses understood to be working in care homes for adults, the majority are employed by the private sector (92.4%).

The report warns against inappropriate role substitution following the introduction of new roles in either health or social care.

It makes 10 recommendations covering areas such as:

  • fair pay and good employment terms and conditions, including full implementation of the Agenda for Change review recommendations
  • evaluation of the Health and Care (Staffing) (Scotland) Act 2019, including an annual parliamentary debate on safe staffing
  • non-caseload holding status for senior charge nurses and protection of supernumerary status for nursing students.

A global comparison shows that the number of nurses per 1,000 population in Scotland (7.9) is below the OCED average of 9.2 and significantly below Ireland (15.2), Norway (18.3) and Finland (18.9).

Commenting RCN Scotland Board Chair Julie Lamberth said: “The registered nurse to resident ratio in many care homes makes safe care impossible. The Scottish government must get serious about the workforce crisis and the long-term implications for the public’s health.”


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