The current crisis in Scotland’s NHS is due in large part to a shortage of skilled personnel. From GPs to nurses, A&E doctors to paramedics, there is a major staffing problem across our health service. To prevent this recurring in future, the Scottish Conservatives called on the SNP Government to remove the cap on funded places for Scots studying for key health jobs at Scotland’s universities. The SNP-Green coalition voted down our motion.
We believe every Scot who meets the admission criteria for an NHS-related degree should be offered a place at a Scottish university, rather than being denied one because of an arbitrary cap set by the Scottish Government. As well as being fair, it would also prevent the current “brain drain” of young Scots heading south to study and remaining there after graduating.
Removing the cap is affordable too. While there would be increased upfront costs of funding more students to go through university, these would be offset by a reduction in the NHS’s enormous outlay on employing locum staff to fill positions where no permanent applicant can be found. A recent study revealed that an astonishing 80% of consultant job adverts in Scotland attracted no applicants at all.
Much of the current NHS staffing crisis can be traced back to Nicola Sturgeon’s fateful decision to cut the number of funded university places for medical students a decade ago, when she was Health Secretary. Our policy to remove the cap would prevent this problem arising in future years – and it is supported by the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons.