As already better-staffed NHS Scotland’s vacancies run at half the rate in England, ‘The extent of the [UK] Government’s failure to plan the NHS workforce is astonishing.’


On Monday, Lib Dem health spokesman Alex Cole-Hamilton accused the Scottish Government of a ‘chronically chaotic approach to workforce planning.’ See:

Lib Dems provide STV and Herald with cheap and shabby copy on NHS consultant costs

Today, the Independent wrote, based on official figures releases:

‘More than 100,000 NHS posts unfilled, reveal ‘grim’ official figures: Quarterly data released by regulator NHS Improvement today, for the year to December, shows the 234 NHS trusts in England “employ 1.1 million whole-time-equivalent staff but that they have 100,000 vacancies”. Health service bosses are saying the findings are “extremely worrying” and a sign of “astonishingly bad planning”.’

So, compared to 9-10% vacancies in England what are the levels in Scotland? Well there is no global figure but for nursing and midwifery, it’s 4.5% and for consultants, it’s 7.7%.

First, in response, the Scottish Government has increased training of nurses by 3.2% and doctors by 1.9%.

Second, even with the 4.5% shortfall, the number of nurses and midwives per head of population, in NHS Scotland, would still be higher than in NHS England.

How many nurses are there in Scotland? Well, in Nursing, excluding Midwifery, there were 56 468.2 FTE in September 2017.

Here’s NHS England nurse staffing as a comparison. When I saw the figures, I found them to be hard to believe, at first, so I double checked them:

The Kings Fund states:

‘The number of nursing staff (nurses and health visitors) has increased by 1.8 per cent from 281,064 FTEs in 2010 to 286 020 FTEs in 2017.’

I checked again with the UK Government site to find confirmation:

‘There were 314,966 Nurses & health visitors, an increase of 2,790 (0.9%) since 2014. There were 281,474 FTE Nurses & health visitors, an increase of 2,494 (0.9%) since 2014.

Can you see why I doubted the figures? They suggest that Scotland with only 10% of England’s population has 19% of the number of nurses or nearly twice as many per head of population. Now, I know we have more remote and underpopulated areas where you would expect to need more teachers, GPs or nurses, per head of population but that still looks like a very big difference which could, of course, be a factor in NHS Scotland’s superior performance.

See also, on GP numbers:

As anti-SNP media scrabble desperately for a crisis in NHS Scotland, GP numbers hold constant and access for patients remains far better than in any other part of the UK

Footnote: A few readers seem to think I’m taking pleasure in the crisis in NHS England. I don’t. The ordinary people of England are the first victims of this horrific political administration. I truly regret that. My purpose is, I thought, clear. I wish to defend NHS Scotland and by association the SNP administration from the lying and distorted attacks of the Scottish media and its Unionist party friends. That’s all.


11 thoughts on “As already better-staffed NHS Scotland’s vacancies run at half the rate in England, ‘The extent of the [UK] Government’s failure to plan the NHS workforce is astonishing.’

  1. John February 22, 2018 / 11:51 am

    Keep doing it John and I will keep reposting your site and it’s findings , there are enough detractors out there , we need you to even the score and tell us the TRUE differences .


  2. bigjon999 February 22, 2018 / 8:45 pm

    Shock horror… the Guardian has a headlined an article “Met police chief to visit Scotland for ideas to reduce knife crime”… but surely they can’t admit Scotland is better than Dear Old England?
    Maybe, just maybe the penny is starting to drop in the Guardian hierarchy that Scotland is actually way ahead of England (well actually diverging sharply) is terms of social justice, cohesion and a government concerned with the wellbeing of its citizens.
    Notable that the article is by Libby Brooks rather than Severin Carrell.


  3. Ludo Thierry February 22, 2018 / 9:06 pm

    Hi Big Jon – Interesting to note that former Chief Constable of Police Scotland Stephen House was very recently recruited by the Met. and appointed as an extra Depute Commissioner to Cressida Dick. He was the subject of extraordinary trolling from the britnat parties when with Police Scotland – but they were targeting him as a way to try and undermine (with their britnat media chums) the SNP Scottish Govt and Scotland as a whole. Stephen House has a very impressive record in his focus on reducing violence in general and knife crime in particular. I suspect the Met have made a very wise appointment. There is a small benefit to Scotland – as well as the Met. showing themselves willing to come and see what is happening here with Police Scotland I understand from a press report that Stephen House is not drawing his pension from Police Scotland now that he is drawing salary from the Met.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. bigjon999 February 22, 2018 / 9:18 pm

    Thanks for the info – seems some of the establishment are honourable (Stephen House not drawing his Scottish police pension).

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Ludo Thierry February 22, 2018 / 10:10 pm

    A few snippets of good news that I’ve had to search around for – probably not arriving on a beeb TV screen near you very soon:

    The TV licence fee will increase to £150.50 from £147 from April 1, the Government has announced. (Selecting the April 1st date is a masterstroke!)
    The annual fee for BBC programming increased for the first time since 2010 in 2017 after the Government said it would rise in line with inflation for five years
    (Who knows – I suspect it will encourage a few more to stop paying the Propaganda Tax?)

    Maggie Chapman has been re-elected with 980 preferred votes in the University of Aberdeen poll. (Good to see the pro-Indy candidate keep hold of the students’ democratic representative role of Lord Rector. We need folk in position and ready for the UKEXIT Indyref poll when it happens).

    Women’s sanitary products have been made available for free on Orkney College UHI’s campus in Kirkwall.
    The initiative could be rolled out across the University of the Highlands and Islands’ network, which involves 12 other colleges and institutions. (Another link in the chain that will eventually cover all of Scotland. A progressive policy being developed and encouraged by the SNP Scottish Govt.)

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Brian Powell February 24, 2018 / 7:48 am

    Scottish NHS staff, and the Scottish public, should be very, very worried about the new Unionist lies on what they claim is the UK single market. It was one of the spurious reasons they gave for withholding the devolved powers that should have come back directly to Holyrood from the EU in the event of Brexit.
    For there to be a a single market of the type they claim then the NHS would need to be under the same structure and control as the English NHS.
    We know now that the Sewel Convention that was supposed to protect devolved powers and Holyrood from Westminster direct intervention is no more than that, a convention. Westminster can change whatever it wants.
    So the now independent Scottish NHS could be taken over to fit in with the UK (Eng) NHS to create the imaginary single market.
    Keep in mind that Labour has given the Tories carte blanch by saying they would never support independence, so what have they to fight with if Westminster went ahead? Nothing at all.

    Liked by 1 person

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