The British Liver Trust has joined forces with more than 30 other health and care bodies, including Cancer Research and The Royal College of Physicians, to call for a ‘desperately needed plan’ to increase staff across all professions and specialities in Wales and bring down waiting lists.
In a letter to the First Minister of Wales, Mark Drakeford, they call on the Welsh government to publish its long-awaited national workforce implementation plan for health and care. They write: “Serious challenges face us as we head into a difficult winter. It is vital that health and care staff feel supported and valued to provide high quality patient care – but we know they are tired and working under intense pressure.”
The Royal College of Physicians says only 36% of advertised consultant physician posts in Wales were filled in 2021, “in 71% of unsuccessful appointments, there were literally no applicants at all”. Nearly half of all consultant physicians in Wales have an excessive workload ‘almost always’ or ‘most of the time’. Some 89% of pharmacists felt at high risk of burnout and a fifth of the emergency medicine consultant workforce in Wales plan to retire by 2027. Wales has the lowest ratio of clinical oncologists per 100,000 older population out of the four UK countries and there is a shortfall of around 150 anaesthetists. These figures are set to rise with an ageing workforce, increasing retirements and further staff burnouts.
Pamlea Healy, chief executive at the British Liver Trust said: ‘Liver disease patients in Wales face huge inequalities in access to specialist care which is a major barrier to improving outcomes for patients. Urgent action needs to address the chronic shortage of hepatologists and liver nurse specialists and tackle geographic disparities in access to care.’
The signatories call upon the Welsh government to work with the NHS in Wales to publish workforce data and devise solutions to increase staff numbers, accompanied by the necessary funding.
They write: “The NHS in Wales cannot provide value for money or successfully innovate and implement reform without a well-resourced workforce. We need to know how many staff are needed to keep pace with patient demand – yet we simply do not know the scale of the problem. The Welsh government should work with the NHS in Wales to publish workforce data, based on current actual and future likely patient demand and supply across all professions and set out a range of solutions to grow, train, and retain the workforce, accompanied by the necessary funding.
The letter continues: “The workforce implementation plan promised by Welsh government earlier this year is a vital opportunity to a set out a range of solutions across recruitment, retention and retirement to ensure we have a workforce that can meet the needs of patients.
“The Welsh government has repeatedly made a clear commitment to working in partnership with public bodies, the third sector, professional bodies and other stakeholders. Its programme for transforming and modernising planned care and reducing waiting lists in Wales recognises that ‘third sector organisations continue to play a vital role in this.’ Yet we are not aware of wider external consultation by either the Welsh government or HEIW on the development of this workforce implementation plan and what will be in it."
On 7 June 2022, the director general for health and social care, Judith Paget said: “In the next couple of months, we’ll be publishing a more detailed NHS workforce plan. It’s definitely on its way.’
On 4 October 2022, the health minister said, ‘we are also developing a workforce implementation plan that will underpin the workforce strategy for health and social care’
On 12 October 2022, the health minister said: “demand is increasing constantly, and that's the problem. We have an ageing population and so the pressures are greater. So, it is important that we do that strategic planning for the future workforce.’
The signatories write: “Despite these repeated promises, there is still no national workforce plan for Wales. We now call on you and your government to make health and social care workforce planning a priority and commit to publishing a workforce implementation plan as soon as possible, drawing on the expertise and data available to you from external stakeholders across the health and social care sector.”