Health professionals walking through corridor and talking

Welsh Government publishes new workforce plan

As the health sector continues to fight a range of issues – whether that be backlog or the ongoing industrial action – the Welsh Government has today published its plan to address the country’s workforce challenges.

The National workforce implementation plan comes as a direct consequence of the pandemic, which saw healthcare workers stretched to their limits even in spite of record staffing levels. But with the World Health Organization predicting a global shortfall of 10 million healthcare professionals by 2030, the Welsh Government has moved to insulate itself against future pressures.

The new strategy details plans to launch an overseas recruitment drive later this year, which will look to build on the success of last year’s Once for Wales pilot that saw 400 nurses bolster NHS Wales’ ranks.

Plans for a national collaborative bank have also been floated to provide staff with choice and flexibility, to not only equip the NHS with more agility in the battle against its staffing issues, but to also encourage workers to move away from agency jobs.

The Welsh Government is also looking to coax more volunteers into healthcare, further supporting and emboldening its already existing network of people who sacrifice their time to improve the lives of others.

Plans for specific professions and services like nursing, dentistry, or pharmacy will be published over the next two years.

Welsh health minister, Eluned Morgan, 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.”

With the demand for services intensifying across Wales as Morgan notes, Health Education and Improvement Wales is also developing its plans deploy reservists in times of extreme pressure; something that has already been seen during the rollouts of vaccinations programmes in the pandemic.

Dr Olwen Williams, the Vice President for Wales at the Royal College of Physicians, added: “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.”

To view the full workforce plan, click here.

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