Posted: Thu 13th Oct 2022

Calls for Welsh Government to address “real challenge” of staff retention in Welsh NHS

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales
This article is old - Published: Thursday, Oct 13th, 2022

North Wales politicians have urged the Welsh Government to do more improve staff retention and recruitment in the region. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

A report released by the RCN Wales (Royal College of Nurses) last month found that the number of registered nurse vacancies had risen from 1,719 in 2021 to 2,900 this year. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

It provides an estimate of the vacancies across Wales’ health boards based off Freedom of Information requests. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

However it is stated that Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board did not reply to the RCN’s FOI, which is described in the report as being “deeply concerning.” ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

Speaking in the Senedd yesterday Health Minister Eluned Morgan admitted that staff retention is “the real challenge”. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

North Wales Conservative MS Sam Rowlands questioned the minister on her assessment of the RCN’s report and what action the Welsh Government is taking to retain staff. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

He said: “I’m sure, Minister, you’d agree with me, and as you initially outlined, that there is a challenge in recruiting and retaining nurses in Wales. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

“In light of this, what further and specific action do you think that you and Welsh Government could carry out to, first of all, recruit more nurses, and, also, to make sure that we’re retaining those hard-working nurses that we already have?” ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

The minister said she is “committed to ensuring that Wales has the right number of numbers and healthcare staff” but that retaining staff is the biggest challenge being faced. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

She said: “The number of training places for nurses has increased over 69 per cent since 2016—that’s 2,396 more nurses that have come on to the system. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

“Part of the problem is that we’ve got to actually make sure that we retain people—that’s the real challenge as far as I’m concerned. I’ve asked Health Education and Improvement Wales to work with the RCN to look at what we can do in this space to help retention. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

“I think it’s also worth emphasising that we’ve recruited an additional 400 international nurses this year. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

“And I was very pleased, on Monday, to meet the health Minister for Kerala in India, who we’re going to now be making a partnership with, so that we can recruit directly from Kerala, so that we can have a direct route to qualified, high-quality students. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

“They were very clear to me that they are happy to train them up, they’re happy to send them over. And what happens is that the remittances are sent back to Kerala, and that’s why it’s in their interest also for us to take on these nurses. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

“So, there are some plans in place, we know that we’ve got a lot further to go, but this is a global pressure that everybody’s really facing.” ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

The minister also faced questions from North Wales MS for Plaid Cymru, Llyr Gruffydd, who challenged the minister on what work is being done to make sure the demand on Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board is being met. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

He said: “We know, of course, that one in eight nursing posts is vacant in north Wales. We also know from the chair of the health board that of the 642 GPs that we have in north Wales, a quarter of them are over 65, and a third of that 642 are expected to retire in the next five years. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

“Twenty per cent of posts are filled by locum doctors at the moment, before those I mentioned will retire. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

“Do you therefore accept that one of the historical failings of this Government, and previous Governments, is the failure to sufficiently plan for the future workforce in this sector, and the upshot of that failure, then, is that we have shrinking staffing levels, that it costs more to the public purse to fill those vacant posts, and it puts more pressure and burden on the shoulders of those left behind?” ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

Ms Morgan said that work has carried out to improve recruitment at the health board, stating that 20,000 people now work for Betsi Cadwaladr. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

She added that there are plans to recruit an additional 380 in the next two years. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

Ms Morgan said: “The idea there is that the board wants to get local people to take those posts, so they have a plan for that. And what is important therefore is that that planning is done. I had a meeting with the General Medical Council last week. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

“They demonstrated exactly how many people are going to leave because they’re going to retire—’retirement’, that’s the word. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

“In terms of nurse training, as you heard from the previous question, we are already training far more nurses than we were in the past; more than 69 per cent more than we have in the past. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

“The difficulty is is that we have to retain people in the system; that’s where the tension is. And we understand that there has been great deal of pressure on these people over the past two years.” ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

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