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Shake-up of NHS staff accommodation proposed as workers slam living standards

18 Jan 2021 3 minutes Read
Photo by Martin Brosy on Unsplash

Liam Randall, local democracy reporter

A shake-up of accommodation for NHS staff in the north of Wales has been proposed after workers slammed the “extremely poor” quality of living standards.

Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board wants to spend just under £56m on overhauling hospital residences in the region.

It comes after officials said the existing accommodation, most of which was built in the 1970s, was putting people off coming to work in the area.

A staff survey was previously carried out to gauge views on the four existing sites at Wrexham Maelor Hospital, Glan Clwyd Hospital, Ysbyty Gwynedd and Abergele Hospital.

Around 56 per cent of the 91 workers who took part described the living quarters on offer as either “poor” or “very poor”, with one respondent going further by branding them “extremely poor and demoralising”.

The health board is now looking to refurbish or rebuild its housing stock after another staff member said their accommodation was “mouldy, dirty and poorly maintained”.

In a report, Rod Taylor, director of estates and facilities, said: “The health board’s existing portfolio of residential accommodation is in a poor state of repair and requires significant levels of investment to redevelop the estate to make it fit-for-purpose and compliant.

“There are four key drivers for change. The estate is not compliant with national standards for residential accommodation.

“Furthermore, the building configuration of some of the existing stock means that required ratios of occupants to toilet, shower, living and dining room facilities cannot be met.

“The estate is failing to deliver modern, energy efficient and fit-for-purpose facilities and backlog maintenance is high.

“The accommodation has therefore been identified as a key area of risk for the health board and is one of its priority areas for investment over the coming three years.”

Betsi Cadwaladr currently provides housing for a range of workers, including medical students, junior doctors and staff from overseas.

At full capacity, 731 people can be accommodated within its 549 housing units, which include single rooms, double rooms and two to three bed flats and houses.

 

‘Not fit for purpose’ 

However, 18 of them are out of use at present as they are said to be not fit for purpose.

Mr Taylor said that the standard of accommodation was hampering its efforts to attract and retain staff.

He said: “Wales has a net outflow of workers and there are recruitment shortfalls in a number of professions and specialties.

“In response to these challenges, Welsh Government has set out clearly the strategic importance it places on recruitment and retention of high-quality NHS staff.

“It has also made clear that it wants medical students to be trained in Wales and become qualified doctors residing and serving the population of Wales.

“High quality, affordable accommodation is one factor that can help enable these ambitions.”

The preferred option outlined in the report would require approximately £55.8m worth of capital funding to be made available by the Welsh Government.

Board members will be asked to approve submitting a business case to ministers when they meet on Thursday, January 21.

They are also being requested to support ongoing discussions with social landlords about providing affordable accommodation for health workers.

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