The number of nurses and midwives working in the NHS in Scotland is at its lowest for seven years, figures released by the Scottish Government have revealed.

There were 56,184 full-time nursing and midwifery staff working in the NHS across Scotland at the end of June - the lowest amount since September 2005. The numbers are also more than 2,000 down on figures for September 2009.

The loss of more than 100 nurses in the Highlands region was attributed to the integration of health and social care, which has seen their employment transferred to the local council, rather than the NHS.

Referring to the cuts, a Scottish Government spokesperson told The Scotsman:  "There are more qualified nurses now than in September 2006 and there are substantially more qualified nurses and midwives per 1,000 population in Scotland than the rest of the UK, with 7.9 nurses and midwives compared to 5.9 in England, 7.2 in Wales and 7.6 in Northern Ireland.

"The provision of NHS care is shifting to meet the needs of patients and we are supporting NHS boards to provide nursing in the community."

Opposition politicians have hit out at the cuts. Labour health spokeswoman Jackie Baillie said: "We cannot allow the number of nurses, midwives and hospital staff to continue to plummet while the demands on our NHS grow." Conservative deputy leader Jackson Carlow said that health spending in Scotland is ring-fenced, meaning the Scottish Government had no need to cut frontline nurses and midwives.

Story posted by Robert Mair on 04/09/2012