The Scottish Government must act urgently to address the systematic workforce pressures across our National Health Service. The most recent NHS workforce statistics are incredibly worrying, showing over 6,600 nursing and midwifery vacancies alone.

Our health and social care staff have gone above and beyond during the pandemic, and we owe them more than a weekly round of applause or a one-off £500 bonus. We need action on staff pay, conditions, and support, alongside steps to grow our NHS workforce to help address the huge patient backlogs.

As outlined in our manifesto last year, Scottish Labour support a fair pay rise for NHS staff and we will work with the trade unions to put in place a long-term pay deal that addresses historic underfunding and low pay, and makes the NHS an attractive place to train and work. Moreover, it is critical that we retain skilled staff – and that’s why we have called for a working time review for every staff member considering retirement.

Only last month, Scottish Labour published a Charter for Valuing our Health and Social Care Workforce, which can be found here. Our charter outlines our commitments to staff in regard to pay and terms and conditions, but it goes further and highlights the need for staff to have access to the right mental health and wellbeing support, whilst ensuring that all staff can benefit from training and development opportunities.

Staff cannot, and should not, be expected to work in a health and social care system that is at breaking point. The problems facing our services – including over 680,000 people on waiting lists, unacceptable A&E waiting times, delayed discharge – are not insurmountable, but they require leadership and action, not more indecision and inactivity from the Scottish Government.

Our NHS is nothing without its dedicated and heroic workforce.

Scottish Labour is on your side and supports the trade unions in their pay claim.