Vaughan Gething, Cabinet Secretary for Health and Social Services
For the fifth consecutive year funding to support health professional education and training in Wales will increase. £114m will be invested in 2019/20, an increase of £7m available in 2018/19 to support a range of education and training programmes for healthcare professionals in Wales. This is a record level of funding and will support the highest ever number of training opportunities in Wales.
I am proud of this government’s record on investing in education and training to support and sustain the health workforce across Wales. The NHS has more people working in it than at any time in its history, all aimed at prevention and care for members of society across every community in Wales.
As I have said in previous years - in the face of the significant financial challenges that have arisen as a result of the UK Government’s austerity agenda - often investment in education and training is the first casualty. That has not been the case in Wales.
This is demonstrated in the increase in training places funded over the past five years. For example since 2014:
Nurse training places have risen by 68% with an increase across all four fields of nursing.
- Health visitor training places have increased by 88%
- For midwifery training places, the 43% increase from 2017/18 has been maintained.
- District nurse training places have more than tripled.
In addition the cap for return to work programmes for previously qualified nurses has been lifted with a commitment to fund additional places where there is demand.
The investment announced today will mean the levels of training for the above staff groups will be maintained. In addition we will continue to invest in additional medical training places, with more places available for 2019/20 in the following areas:
- Emergency Medicine
- Old Age Psychiatry
- Trauma and Orthopaedics
- Intensive Care Medicine
This is in addition to the additional investment already made in radiology training posts.
Nurses and doctors are often the focus of debates and discussion about the NHS and related services. This is natural; they are often the first professionals individuals engage with when they encounter problems with their health. It is true that the NHS could not operate without these professionals who are fundamental to the provision of services. But it is equally true that the health and social care services rely on more than 300 professions and job roles which combine to support patient care. It is only through working together that the services we rely upon each and every day can be delivered.
That is why since 2014 we have invested in the education and training of a range of other health professionals including:
- Occupational therapists – 51% increase
- Physiotherapists– 53% increase
- Radiographers – 53% increase
- Dental hygienists – 80% increase
- Paramedics – 139% increase
Earlier this year we published A Healthier Wales: our long-term plan for health and social care in Wales, it is appropriate to pause and reflect on the areas where investment is required to ensure the workforce of the future is able to deal with the challenges set out in the plan. So, we will also increase the funding available to support the advanced practice / extended skills and health care support worker development, but I will want to ensure that the funding is directed to areas where the health system is able to derive maximum benefit.
The establishment of Health Education and Improvement Wales (HEIW) provides greater opportunities to consider both current and future workforce challenges and how education and training can support the changes required to address these challenges. HEIW will work with the NHS and others to ensure its work is rooted in ensuring the needs of the patient are at the heart of decisions it takes. Greater emphasis on multi-professional teams may require fundamental changes to the way education and training programmes are identified, commissioned and delivered in the future and HEIW, working with key partners will provide leadership in this area.
The role of Health Scientists is continuing to play pivotal roles in the provision of care to support the ambitions of Healthier Wales. In March 2018 we published the Healthcare Science – Looking Forward Framework which sets out the direction of travel for the professions in alignment with long term plan for health and social care. Similarly, a national Statement of Intent for Imaging was published in March 2018 and recognised by the Welsh Audit Office in November 2018.
Earlier this year it was agreed to regulate the role of Physician Associates across the UK. In Wales we will continue to support the role of Physician Associates while evaluating the impact this role is having in the provision of services. This is in addition to the commitment made to support additional GP training places where the level of acceptable applicants exceeds the number of training places available.
Availability of training places, of itself, cannot deliver sustainability in terms of the workforce, the support package for individuals must reflect the needs of students to enable them to commit to the duration of the programmes. That is why a commitment has already been made to maintain the NHS Wales Bursary arrangements for 2019/20. The recent consultation into student support arrangements has provided valuable insight into the views of individuals and organisations about the existing arrangements and will help inform the development of the longer term support package, a decision about which will be taken during the coming months.