Proposed new legislation to enshrine safe levels of health and care staff in law is expected to pass its first hurdle at Holyrood later.
The Health and Care (Staffing) (Scotland) Bill was put forward following concerns about staffing levels and workforce planning in the NHS and by care providers.
If passed, the bill would put enhanced existing workforce planning tools on a statutory footing, aiming to ensure safe and appropriate staffing levels.
In a recent report, Holyrood’s Health and Sport Committee, which has been scrutinising the proposed legislation, backed the general principles of the Bill.
However, MSPs on the committee have asked for more detail on how staff numbers and care quality will be assessed, monitored and reported.
They also raised concerns about a danger of resources being skewed towards the hospital sector in order to meet the initial requirements set out in the legislation.
They committee called on the government to “reflect on” staff such as paramedics, radiographers, physiotherapists and others, collectively known as Allied Health Professionals, being excluded from the legislation.
Speaking ahead of the debate, Health Secretary Jeane Freeman said: “I am pleased that the Health and Sport Committee support the general principles of this important legislation, which will create a system to help ensure there is appropriate staffing in place to meet patient need.
“Our NHS has now seen seven consecutive years of annual growth in overall workforce numbers, but in order to meet increasing demand on our services, it’s crucial that we understand the workload required to meet service users’ needs.
“This will in turn allow us to be confident that we have the right number of staff, in the right place, at the right time.”
The debate comes two days after annual NHS workforce figures were published, showing a marginal 0.2% increase between the September 30 census point this year on overall staff.
Numbers of medical and dental consultants rose and vacancies for these posts fell, but doctors’ organisation BMA Scotland beliee certain types of empty roles being omitted from the calculations mean the real vacancy rate is almost double at around 13.9% – equivalent to a hospital worth of consultants.
Nursing and midwifery staff numbers increased but vacancies for these positions also rose.