NHS staff told how to claim benefits and use jobcentres as Nicola Sturgeon gave press conference on health pressures

NHS staff faced a presentation on how to claim benefits and use job centres at the same time Nicola Sturgeon answered questions on health system pressures, it can be revealed.

Workers at NHS Scotland’s National Contact Centre (NCC) are set to be made redundant with around 200 jobs being lost, despite the move to increase the number of staff working at NHS24 by the Scottish Government.

Staff at the centre were at the heart of Scotland’s emergency response to Covid-19 by tracing contacts and have been central to the vaccination programmes of the past couple of years.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

However, as Nicola Sturgeon told journalists of her plans to increase the number of care home beds available to reduce delayed discharge and of an increased recruitment drive, call centre workers were being advised on how to claim benefits and use job centres.

The town hall meeting had been scheduled for the first working Monday of the year and included a full presentation from the Department of Work and Pensions. This included advice on what support is available to those soon to be unemployed and how to access it, it is understood.

In total, the equivalent of 178 full-time staff are set to lose their jobs with many to compulsory redundancy. However, many of those working at the National Contact Centre are part time, so the number of individuals impacted is likely to be higher.

The job cuts comes after the Scottish Government announced savings worth £116 million from Covid-19-related spending as part of their emergency budget review.

This included £48.6m connected to Test and Protect, with Freedom of Information disclosures revealing it also included a reduction in the opening hours of the National Contact Centre.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon during a press conference on winter pressures in the NHS, at St Andrews House in Edinburgh.First Minister Nicola Sturgeon during a press conference on winter pressures in the NHS, at St Andrews House in Edinburgh.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon during a press conference on winter pressures in the NHS, at St Andrews House in Edinburgh.

A further £26.3m is being cut from the vaccinations budget due to the reduction in the cost of external venue hire and in the high-cost workforce required to administer vaccines.

Martin Morrison, operations director of the NHS Scotland National Contact Centre, said a “number of fixed-term contracts” were set to end, with “many” moving to other roles within the NHS.

He said: “The NCC is now fully focused on supporting national vaccination programmes. The level of resource now required is significantly less than was needed to help the NCC successfully support the Covid-19 emergency response.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“As a result, a number of fixed-term contracts will end and redundancies will be necessary within the NCC workforce. This will reduce the core staff from 240 WTE to 62 WTE.

“NHS National Services Scotland (NSS) has worked extensively over the past eight months to support impacted colleagues. We have helped many move to other roles within NSS, across NHS Scotland and outwith the NHS. It is likely that supported NCC colleagues have found employment with NHS24, but we cannot confirm numbers.”

At the press conference on Monday, the First Minister said “immediate extra funding” would be provided to health and social care partnerships to support the booking of additional care home beds for patients to be discharged to while they await an appropriate care package.

Additional staff for the NHS24 service is also set to increase in coming weeks after workforce numbers were increased prior to the festive period to reduce the need for hospital visits.

Want to hear more from The Scotsman's politics team? Check out the latest episode of our political podcast, The Steamie.

It's available wherever you get your podcasts, including Apple Podcasts and Spotify.



Want to join the conversation? Please or to comment on this article.