NURSES in Scotland are calling for the introduction of rent controls warning the profession is being priced out of communities near hospitals.

NHS staff having to leave for work two hours before they start a 12 hour shift because they have to live so far from work, are among their concerns.

Shortages of nurses in property hotspots including Aberdeen and Edinburgh have also prompted the motion which is being put to a major congress of the Royal College of Nursing in Glasgow.

Community nurse Geoff Earl, Lothian branch officer for the RCN, said: "There are huge areas now where it has become very difficult to rent accommodation - some areas of Glasgow, but particularly Edinburgh and Aberdeen. That is affecting recruitment of nurses in those areas."

The latest figures show 412 vacancies for nurses and midwives in NHS Grampian, 141 in NHS Lothian and 712 in Scotland's largest health board NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde.

Mr Earl said it was really difficult for newly qualified nurses, and those with young families, to find affordable housing in Edinburgh. He said areas such as Portobello, which were once a possibility, had become pricier and people were now moving out to small villages in East Lothian. "That is great for the villages but it is very difficult for the staff who are having to travel, particularly if they do not drive," he said.

"I have colleagues who work in Livingstone who are leaving at 5am for shifts that start at 7am.

"The buses do not necessarily run to the times (you need). The buses do not all run to the hospital, so you have to get a bus to the town, then a bus to the hospital."

Such travel arrangements, he continued, add to the stress of a 12 hour shift. "It is not very good for nurses' health and that impacts on the care they can deliver," he said. Driving home after the third 12 hour shift in a row, he added, is "not safe".

Introducing rent controls, he said, would not only help nurses. Housing is seen as an important factor in wider public health. The motion, which calls on the RCN to lobby all UK governments to introduce rent controls, says: "Rent regulation could improve the wellbeing of vulnerable households by increasing the amount of money available to spend on other items such as food and clothing."

Earlier this year the Scottish Government passed an act which limits rent rises to one each year and includes a power for councils to request the creation of a ‘rent pressure zone’ to limit rent rises for sitting tenants in certain circumstances.

The era of on site accommodation for NHS nurses came to an end in the late 1990s, according to Mr Earl. This, he said, made it particularly difficult for student nurses on placements away from their usual address.

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “The wellbeing of staff is essential to the smooth running of the NHS, and we are working with stakeholders to develop measures to continue support the recruitment and retention of staff.

“The Scottish Government is working with Aberdeen City Council, NHS Grampian and other partners to develop new homes for key public sector workers, including NHS staff on the former site of Craiginches Prison.

“The Private Housing (Tenancies) (Scotland) Act 2016 will provide clarity and predictability in rent increases where rents can rise only once in 12 months and tenants will have 3 month notice of changes to enable them to budget accordingly. In addition, councils will have the ability to apply to Ministers for a cap on rent increases in their area for up to 5 years.”

The Royal College of Nursing, the world’s largest professional organisation and trade union for nursing staff, is holding its 2016 congress at the SECC in Glasgow from Saturday June 18.