NHS staff have played a vital and enduring role during the Covid pandemic, and I like all of my MSP colleagues in Holyrood, would like to reiterate my thanks for their efforts and continued resilience as we begin rebuilding from the pandemic.
I share your concerns that the SNP Government are failing to adequately support NHS staff in Scotland. Indeed, many of the issues we see today are the result of failed workforce planning. Even now, after 15 years of SNP government, there is little hope that they are taking seriously the urgent need to improve matters. Their recent workforce plan was insufficient and lacked ambition, while vacancy rates are at record levels for nurses and a four year high across many other NHS professions.
As you rightly note, pay negotiations are a matter for the SNP Government. We hope that SNP ministers will engage seriously with negotiations and offer a reasonable and proportionate pay increase, taking into account the increasing cost of living pressures but balanced against the need to properly fund and deliver quality public services. Of course, alongside this, it’s clear that much more needs to be done to address concerns around staff wellbeing and working conditions. Efforts need to be focussed on improving flexibility for staff and safety for patients, though we would also like to see substantial investment in rest facilities and mental health support for staff.
We will continue to follow progress on this issue closely and will carefully scrutinise any offer put forward by the SNP Government.