The Welsh Government has today set out its plans to address the challenges of staffing the Welsh NHS.
The National Workforce Implementation Plan has been published in response to the additional demands on the NHS workforce since the COVID-19 pandemic.
The NHS Wales workforce is at record levels, with over 105,000 staff directly employed currently. However, there is expected to be increasing demand globally for healthcare workers, with the World Health Organisation predicting a shortfall of 10 million health workers globally by 2030.
The plan includes immediate actions to address the current pressures within the NHS. The actions include ethically recruiting more nurses from overseas, with a recruitment drive planned for later in 2023. Last year the ‘Once for Wales’ pilot campaign led to around 400 nurses joining the NHS.
There are also plans to create an ‘All-Wales Collaborative Bank’ to enable the NHS to address short-term staffing issues and provide staff with choice and flexibility, while encouraging a move away from agency working.
Health Education and Improvement Wales (HEIW) is developing proposals to deploy reservists to support the regular workforce at times of extreme pressure, such as for the urgent roll-out of a national vaccination programme, as seen during the pandemic.
The Welsh Government also plans to encourage more volunteers into the health and care system, adding to the existing network of people who give their time to help others.
The Welsh Government will issue detailed plans for specific professions and services such as nursing, dentistry and pharmacy over the next two years.
Eluned Morgan, the Minister for Health and Social Services, said:
Our health workforce has reached record numbers in Wales, to help meet the increasing demand on its services. But we are seeing demand for health and social care like never before, in Wales and across the world.
Our plans are based on what NHS staff have been telling us - that rapid action is needed in key areas now.
The message is clear: we must accelerate our action, with strong, collective and compassionate leadership, if we are to improve retention and recruitment. It’s vital we provide our workforce with the working environment it needs to continue to provide world-class care for the people of Wales.
Dr Olwen Williams OBE, vice president for Wales, Royal College of Physicians said:
We know the NHS workforce is under a great deal of pressure. In our most recent membership survey in December 2022, the Royal College of Physicians found that staff shortages are the biggest challenge facing the NHS, with 64% of respondents in Wales saying they were being asked to fill rota gaps at short notice and 49% saying that reducing staff vacancies in their team would make the biggest difference to their wellbeing.
I’m delighted to see this plan published. We’ve previously joined with other royal colleges and professional bodies to call for action, and this is an important first step in the process. We also welcome recent engagement with the royal colleges over this workforce plan and hope to continue these conversations.