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MSPs NHS Workforce Briefing

March 2004


On Thursday 26th February the Scottish Parliament will debate an Executive motion on building and supporting the NHS workforce. UNISON Scotland welcomes the high priority given to staffing issues as reflected in the decision of the Minister for Health to amend the NHS Reform (Scotland) Bill to include staff governance.

Recruitment and Retention

However there are still some recruitment and retention issues within the National Health Service in Scotland which need to be addressed. These include concerns relating to the current age profile of staff working in the NHS, with some Scottish trusts facing 60% of their staff retiring within the next 15 years. The Scottish Executive should work towards making the NHS an attractive career option by implementing a range of policies aimed at attracting and retaining staff. This would include family friendly policies that have been agreed but have not yet been implemented.

UNISON Scotland also support the concept of a Scotland-wide human resources strategy to provide common conditions of service across all NHS Health Boards. One issue that UNISON Scotland would wish to see developed would be the concept of associated NHS employees. This would allow NHS employees to retain their accumulated service conditions if they were to transfer their employment to other parts of the NHS in Scotland. UNISON Scotland believes that this would aid the retention and recruitment of experienced staff as well as providing opportunities for career development. For this issue to be implemented a formally constituted negotiating body, including trade unions, would need to be established at the Scottish bargaining level. Such as move would also lessen the pressures within Agenda for Change regarding the implementation of any new pay and conditions scheme.

International Recruitment

UNISON Scotland is concerned about the treatment of NHS staff recruited from abroad. This follows on from recent reports that nurses recruited from overseas are facing exploitation from recruitment agencies. UNISON Scotland believe that there should be better protection for this section of the workforce and calls on the Scottish Executive to establish an agency to oversee their pay and conditions as well as looking after their interests.

Agenda for Change

The proposals within Agenda for Change will lead to the most radical change in determining pay and conditions for NHS staff since the creation of the NHS in 1948. However while NHS consultants are receiving increases of between 25 30%, the current proposals within Agenda for Change could result in up to 30% of NHS staff actually losing money.

At a time when the NHS is having problems recruiting and retaining staff, such changes in terms and conditions will not make the NHS an attractive career option for many people.


In order to overcome current and future staffing problems the Scottish Executive has to ensure that working the NHS in Scotland is an attractive career option. This includes overcoming the problems with Agenda for Change, implementing family friendly policies, moving to associated employee status and proper protection of NHS staff from overseas.

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