The Welsh Government has set out a plan to address workforce challenges within the NHS – but the RCGP has warned it is not enough to fix the crisis.
The National Workforce Implementation Plan published yesterday aimed to set out ‘immediate practical actions to address some of the key issues’ facing the NHS in Wales.
It was been developed in response to ‘significant additional demands’ on the workforce due to the reprioritisation to support the service’s recovery plans.
Eluned Morgan, minister for health and social services, said she ‘absolutely recognised’ that there are no ‘quick fixes,’ but that the plan is looking at innovative approaches to create a sustainable NHS workforce for the future.
She said: ‘The workforce challenges which we face are not unique to NHS Wales but are impacting our staff and their ability to care effectively for the people of Wales.
‘We want to reduce the pressure on our existing workforce by continuing our focus on investment in education and training so that we have a healthy pipeline of new recruits into the NHS in Wales.
‘We also want to focus on retention and wellbeing, and this will be under pinned by our ambition to ethically recruit more nurses from overseas, with a recruitment drive planned for later in 2023.’
But the RCGP said that while proposals to improve the use of technology and promote diversity included in the document are encouraging, the plan ‘falls short of setting any clear targets regarding expanding the workforce.’
A spokesperson for RCGP Cymru Wales said: ‘The reality of the pressure in general practice today feels a very long way from the ideals of the workforce plan. To achieve a shift to a truly sustainable Welsh NHS will take bravery from decision-makers.
‘Pre-pandemic Wales was served by 404 GP surgeries, there are now 18 fewer. The most valuable data regarding total GP numbers is the full-time equivalent figure and this has only been published since December 2021.
‘Even so, we can see a worrying pattern with there being 49 less FTE GPs in Wales in June ’22 than was the case just 6 months earlier. That is a deeply worrying trajectory.
‘A robust and deliverable workforce plan is essential. We have had some initial constructive discussions and we look forward to the forthcoming Primary Care Plan.
‘We hope this will deliver a specific recruitment and retention strategy for GPs including recognising much-needed investment in the primary care estate to allow sufficient space to train the next generation of GPs.’
The document also said that since 2011, the Welsh Government invested in the RCGP Leadership Programme, providing ‘aspirational GPs committed to change’ with the opportunity to develop their clinical leadership skills.
The programme, which was paused due to the pandemic, will be reinstated this year, according to the document.
The plan said: ‘It will be critical to equip all our line managers with the skills and capabilities, plus a range of tools and techniques to support the development of leadership at all levels.
‘We will need to ensure that all our line management approaches support the wellbeing of our workforce and embed the practice of compassionate leadership in a tangible way that makes a difference to our workforce day to day.’
At a meeting on 2 February, NHS board members heard that with the urgent and emergency care plan published this week, ‘the team is now hard at work already starting on a primary care recovery plan’.