The draft budget for 2010/11 outlines plans to cut the nursing education and training budget from £157.9m in 2009/2010 to £152.1m in 2010/11. The RCN said it was due to be £163.5m, according to last year's spending plans.
The RCN wants to know how the Scottish government aims to meet its ambition to become a ‘world leader in patient-centred healthcare quality' in the light of the cut.
Theresa Fyffe, RCN Scotland director, said: ‘In a draft budget that raises more questions than answers, the most worrying question is that of quality patient care. While saying that it will ‘increase the capability' of the nursing workforce to meet future demands, the accompanying figures reveal a worrying cut of almost £6m, which equates to a real-terms cut of over 5%, compared with last year. It is also £11.4m less than anticipated in last year's budget.
‘A cut in student numbers means only one thing: a reduced future nursing workforce. How does this square with the government's plans to make Scotland a world leader in quality healthcare, as stated in its quality strategy?'
A Scottish government spokesman said: 'This is categorically not a cut. We are repaying money budgeted for training bursaries over the three years 2008-11 that was not needed to support students. As we cannot know how many students will require bursaries at the start of the Spending Review period, we have to estimate an amount.
'The repayment of unspent bursary allocations to the central health budget means the money can be redeployed to frontline services, for the benefit of patinets across Scotland.
'We will continue to train the right number of nurses for Scotland, based on projections of the numbers needed to fill vacancies so that supply matches demand.
'The Scottish government has gone to great lengths to protect health in the draft budget for 2010/11, despite the £500 million of cuts imposed on us by the Westminster government.'