THE number of nurses and midwives in Scotland's hospitals has increased but nursing leaders warn of a shortage of qualified staff.

Latest figures show the nursing and midwifery workforce rose by more than 500 to 57,878 in the last year.

However, vacancy rates are currently at 2.5% and the Royal College of Nursing says health boards are under pressure from increased demand for services with delayed discharge figures rising.

Ellen Hudson, RCN Scotland associate director, said: "One thing we all know is that demand is going up as people live longer, often with a range of complicated conditions.

"So while health boards are putting right past cuts and are trying to recruit nurses to try to meet this demand, pressure is still growing because health boards are trying to recruit to posts but there just aren't enough appropriately qualified nurses available.

Health Secretary Alex Neil said planning was crucial.

He said: "I know how important it is that we have the right number of staff in the right place at the right time to provide the best possible care for patients.

"It is vital that our approach continues to be led by in-depth evidence-based planning."

The number of NHS consultants in post has also increased by 2.4% over the past year to 4685.

Statistics released by Information Services Division Scotland show that the NHS in Scotland has 135,016 whole time equivalent (WTE) members of staff, an increase of 6.3%, or 7954.4 WTE staff, since September 2006.