The number of trainee nurses and midwives is to be increased by 3% as part of long-term plans to overcome shortages.
The Scottish Government said there will be an extra 608 student places in 2015-16, taking this year’s recommended intake to 3,038.
The end result will be an 4.2% increase in qualified nurses and midwives since 2006, taking the total to more than 1,700 full time staff, it said.
An extra £450,000 will also be provide for a “return to practice scheme” over the next three years to encourage former nurses and midwives back into the profession. It is estimated this will help around 75 former nurses retrain each year and get back to work.
Health Secretary Shona Robison said: “We are not only increasing the numbers of qualified nurses and midwives in our hospitals now, we are also planning for the future.
“That is why we have funded an increase in the number of nurses and midwives in training again this year by a further 3%, on top of the 6% increase the Scottish Government announced last year. This is the kind of careful long term planning and investment our NHS needs.
“There is no doubt that there is pressure on our NHS as it rises to the challenge of dealing with an ageing population. However, by working with partners and investing in the future workforce, we can continue to ensure that our health service provides first class care for generations to come.”
Matt McLaughlin, lead nursing organiser with Unison, welcomed the government commitment to increase the number of trainee nurses, despite continues financial pressures.
“Our NHS continues to value professional nurses and midwives and this investment is a measure of that,” he said.
Ellen Hudson, Royal College of Nursing Scotland associate director, said while the increase in student numbers was welcome, nurses continued to be “under huge strain, trying to cope with increased demand”
“You just have to look at the recent crises in the health service to know that we haven’t yet got the right nursing workforce in place to cope with all the pressures in our hospitals and out in the community,” she said.
“With the cuts to nursing student intake numbers in 2011-12 and 2012-13 now feeding through and high numbers of nurses retiring, health boards are struggling to ensure they have enough nurses to deliver safe and effective patient care.”