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Doctors demand new 'safe staffing levels' in NHS Scotland

Medical professionals also call for introduction of new portion control policy

By STV News

Published 21 Mar 2016.

Doctors are calling for ‘safe staffing levels’ in NHS Scotland to be a priority for the new Scottish government following the May election.

The Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh (RCPE) set out its healthcare priorities for the new administration on Monday, including calling for a portion control policy to be considered following on from the sugar tax.

The organisation wants improved workforce planning to address challenges in recruiting and retaining employees.

It warned that the size and structure of the medical workforce must be reassessed to account for the needs of an ageing population and deal with vacancies, rota challenges and trainee attrition rates.

Derek Bell, RCPE President Professor, said: "The needs of our patients and the NHS in Scotland are changing, and the new Scottish Government must work collectively and in partnership to address the health and wellbeing challenges that we face.

"As well as addressing workforce issues, we must continue to improve the health and wellbeing of the population. We know the causes and consequences of obesity and problems associated with alcohol and tobacco are significant.

"The costs to both the NHS and patients are high, both financially and in terms of avoidable suffering and health problems. Preventative measures such as reduced food portion or pack sizes should be considered alongside policies such as the sugary drinks tax by the incoming government."

Health Secretary Shona Robison said: "The NHS workforce in Scotland is at a record high having increased by more than 10,000 whole time equivalent employees under this government - including around 25% more doctors and around 2,300 more nurses and midwives.

"We are determined to attract and retain the best in the healthcare profession, which is why the First Minister recently announced a £27 million package to increase medical school places, train 500 more advanced nurse practitioners and support nursing and midwifery students experiencing financial hardship."

She added: "The integration of health and social care which comes into full force on April 1, is the single biggest reform to the way health and social care is delivered in Scotland.

"We have provided over half a billion pounds of funding over three years to ensure integration drives change, as well as a further £250 million for social care announced in next year's budget."