Nursing leaders have warned of a ‘perfect storm’ for nursing staff in the NHS, following the unknown impact of Brexit, budget cuts and an ageing population.

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) said patient care is being put at risk following a rising demand and a major staffing crisis.

Its report says half of British nurses could retire within a decade, while services are increasingly reliant on foreign workers, who could leave post-Brexit.

The number of student nurse placements also fell by a quarter between 2005/6 and 2012/13, however trainee places have started to increase.

RCN Scotland Director Theresa Fyffe said: “The last few years have been characterised by a ‘boom and bust’ approach to nursing workforce planning, with many of our health boards cutting the number of nursing staff, simply to balance their books – and then having to try and recruit more nursing staff as demand for services soared.

“This is no way to run our health services.”

The reported also highlighted the ageing workforce. The RCN said that in 2006, 43% of nurses and midwives were aged 45 or over; in 2015, that figure had risen to 54%.

Conservative Shadow Health Secretary Donald Cameron said: “The government must explain why it hasn’t created more student places when it knew the workforce was ageing, and why hiring patterns have been so erratic.”

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