Mark Drakeford, Minister for Health and Social Services
A well-trained NHS workforce with the right skills is essential to providing high-quality care to people across Wales and improving standards in our health service.
Despite the challenges of ongoing austerity in the public sector and a 10% cut to the Welsh Government’s overall budget by the UK Government, we have continued to invest in the education and training of healthcare professionals in Wales. This year will be no exception.
I am today announcing an £85m package to support a range of education and training programmes for healthcare professionals, including nurses, physiotherapists, radiographers and a range of health science training opportunities.
This package includes a 10% increase in the number of nursing training places – an extra 135 places – which will be commissioned in 2016-17. This is in addition to the 22% increase in 2015-16. I am proud to confirm this is the highest level of nurse training places commissioned in Wales since devolution.
This continued investment will undoubtedly help to meet the new duties imposed by the Nurse Staffing Levels (Wales) Bill, which reaches stage four today.
This increase will also support the provision of safe and compassionate care for older and frail people with complex care needs, who are the main users of acute inpatient care.
The package also includes an increase of more than 10% in physiotherapy places, which is also on top of the 26% increase in 2015-16.
There will also be an increase of more than 10% in training places for diagnostic radiographers; this is in addition to the 26% increase last year. Training places in diagnostic radiography will increase by 10% and therapeutic radiography by 5% - together this represents the highest number of radiography training places since devolution.
We will again increase the number of training places for clinical scientists, building on last year’s 52% increase. There will be additional training places in genomics; medical physics; biomedical engineering; molecular pathology; bioinformatics; microbiology; lab genetics and genetic counselling. Some of these will be at the new higher specialist scientist training level to develop consultant scientists to work in Wales.
All these roles play a key part in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of disease; our investment will help to increase the uptake of innovative technologies, treatments and scientific advances and it will build on NHS Wales’ reputation for scientific excellence in medicine. These specialties will also underpin the development of a precision medicine approach for Wales.
We will maintain the current level of support for advanced practice and extended skills development, while increasing our investment in the development of healthcare support workers to £1.5m. Healthcare support workers are an essential part of the NHS workforce and this investment will ensure people are supported to gain the right knowledge and skills to deliver care. It will also support career development for those who wish it. We will also continue our investment in paramedic training and education.
These additional training places will increase the capacity of the workforce to help the NHS respond to the challenges facing it now and in the future. This package will support new entrants as well as the ongoing development of existing staff.
This £85m package for training will enable 2,697 new students to undertake education and training programmes in 2016-17. The total number of people in training and training places for 2016-17 will be 7,384 compared to 6,881 in 2015-16.
Assembly Members will be updated about the development of the physicians’ associate role in Wales in a later written statement.