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Welsh Government publishes new NHS staffing plans

01 Feb 2023 4 minute read
Staff on a NHS hospital ward. PA Images, Peter Byrne

A new strategy has been published to address the challenges of staffing the NHS in Wales, with a global shortage of healthcare workers predicted

Currently, the NHS Wales workforce is at record levels, with over 105,000 staff directly employed.

However, the National Workforce Implementation Plan is designed to ensure the NHS in Wales remains  fully staffed, with the World Health Organisation predicting a worldwide shortfall of 10 million health workers by 2030.

The new plan includes a campaign to ethically recruit more nurses from overseas, with a recruitment drive planned for later in 2023.

This follows on from last year’s successful ‘Once for Wales’ pilot campaign which led to around 400 nurses joining the NHS.

There are also plans to create an ‘All-Wales Collaborative Bank’ to enable the NHS to address short-term staffing issues and provide staff with choice and flexibility, while encouraging a move away from agency working.

According to figures published last month, NHS Wales spent £260 million on agency staff in 2022.

Extreme pressure

Health Education and Improvement Wales (HEIW) is developing proposals to deploy reservists to support the regular workforce at times of extreme pressure, such as for the urgent roll-out of a national vaccination programme, as seen during the pandemic.

The government also plans to encourage more volunteers into the health and care system, adding to the existing network of people who give their time to help others.

Detailed plans for specific professions and services such as nursing, dentistry and pharmacy will be published over the next two years.

Eluned Morgan, the Minister for Health and Social Services, 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.”


Dr Olwen Williams OBE, vice president for Wales, 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.”

Plaid Cymru’s spokesperson for health and care, Rhun ap Iorwerth MS, said: “Welsh Government’s workforce plan has been a long time coming, but we’re left with the question – was it worth the wait?

“Workers are striking over pay and conditions, and the first thing that any credible workforce plan must address is how workers are to be fairly paid. Yet Welsh Government once again hide behind Westminster, blaming them for not increasing funding, whilst failing to acknowledge that there are powers they themselves do hold, including taxation.

“Paying workers a fair wage has to be at the heart of the workforce plan, and that’s why it’s the first point in Plaid Cymru’s 5-Point Plan for the NHS, published last week. Without our health and care workers, we have no NHS.”

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