The NHS is our most valued and cherished public service, but it couldn’t be delivered without the hard work and dedication of the staff who work for it. That’s why the SNP is committed to supporting our health service staff to deliver the best possible health care.
We will continue to work collaboratively with NHS staff to improve our health service. We’re working in partnership with clinicians and, as a result, we have avoided the junior doctors strike we are seeing in England today. Unlike my counterpart in England, I will never attack our hardworking NHS staff.
We’ve already invested heavily in the health and care workforce in the last 9 years. There are now more people working in our NHS than ever before, with over 10,000 more people working in the health service since the SNP came to office. This includes more than 2,000 additional qualified nurses and midwives, and over 2,500 more doctors. But we need to build on that success. Today Nicola Sturgeon has announced a number of steps we’ll take to ensure we continue to develop the NHS workforce for the future.
This announcement includes £3 million to train an additional 500 advanced nurse practitioners, who will treat more people in the community and play an important role in the integrated health care of the future.
Unlike the UK Government, we are completely committed to maintaining a nursing bursary and keeping nursing tuition free, ensuring that we continue to attract the best people to train for nursing and midwifery roles. Overall, there will be a 5.6 per cent increase in student nurse intake this year and we will also be launching a new fund of at least £1 million for nursing and midwifery students experiencing financial hardship.
Nicola also announced an investment of over £23 million to increase the number of medical school places and widen access to medical schools with a new entry level programme for those from deprived backgrounds. We’ll also create the first Scottish graduate entry programme for medicine that will support students who agree to enter the NHS Scotland workforce when they qualify.
We’re also ensuring that all NHS staff get a fair wage for their hard-work. The SNP government has paid all NHS staff at least the Living Wage since 2011 and we have put in place a policy of no compulsory redundancies too. And, this year NHS workers earning £22,000 or less will get a minimum increase of £400 – £100 more than last year.
In contrast, under Labour’s tax hike plans, a worker earning £21,000 would see the entirety of the increase in the minimum pay rise wiped out. While this year’s SNP budget will support low paid public sector workers, Labour’s proposals mean that a nurse would pay £112 more in Income Tax.
With needs of the population changing the NHS faces many pressures and is treating more patients, with more complex illnesses, than ever before. By continuing to shape our NHS for the future we can ensure the fantastic staff working in the health service continue to deliver high quality care – and we will continue to support them in doing so.