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North MSP wins backing for debate on NHS Highland recruitment and retention of staff after the Scottish Government moved a midwifery course from the University of the Highlands and Islands to Napier University in Edinburgh

By Scott Maclennan

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The problems of NHS Highland recruitment and the retention of staff will be debated at Holyrood after a motion tabling the issue was brought by Highland MSP Rhoda Grant.

The Labour member believes more healthcare related courses should be established in the region to meet staffing challenges in many clinical disciplines, including – midwifery, mental health services and women’s health services.

In 2019 the University of the Highlands and Islands established a shortened midwifery course in response to the need for staff in northern health boards but the Scottish Government did not approve a third cohort in 2021 and moved the course to Edinburgh Napier University instead.

Now Mrs Grant hopes that by raising the issue in debate it will be clear to the government that the workforce shortage is still prevalent in the Highlands and Islands and it is slowing the expansion of services.

She was backed by other prominent MSPs including fellow Highland member Edward Mountain as well as Jackie Baillie, Neil Bibby, Miles Briggs, Katy Clark, Pam Duncan-Glancy, and Pam Gosal.

Mrs Grant highlighted how new facilities like Broadford on Skye and National Treatment Centre in Inverness have and are struggling to get staff and cannot work at their full potential.

“We recently saw the Cabinet Secretary for Health, Humza Yousaf, open two new community hospitals in the Highland region,” she said. “As much as I welcome this investment, lack of staff means that part of the new Broadford Hospital remains unused.

“We must establish local courses using our world-renowned university. This will not only encourage students to move here, work here and hopefully set down roots here but it will also utilise local talent who cannot or don’t want to move elsewhere.

“In the face of more people reaching retirement age and the need to develop more services, I appreciate that NHS Highland are requiring staff urgently and thus they’re looking to recruit elsewhere however, The Scottish Government need to do more to help Boards recruit, train and retain staff, especially within our northern Health Boards.”

The full motion states:

That the Parliament notes the reported ongoing issues with staff recruitment in NHS Highland, while it attempts to expand its services by providing a National Treatment Centre in Inverness and to support NHS Grampian by providing obstetric services for Moray; considers that the Highlands and Islands has a world-class university in the University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI); understands that UHI previously carried out successful training of midwifery staff for the Highlands and Islands region to meet staffing demand as part of a two-year pilot in response to a specific workforce need; further understands that funding for this programme has now been moved to Edinburgh Napier University to cover the whole of Scotland; notes the view that NHS staff should be trained close to home in order to enhance recruitment and retention of staff, and further notes the call, therefore, for the Scottish Government to develop training for NHS staff at the University of the Highlands and Islands.

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