A new government arm’s-length body being set up in Wales to oversee and plan NHS workforce needs must prioritise nursing, especially in the wake of the Brexit vote, according to unions.
The Royal College of Nursing in Wales was responding to an announcement of a new special health authority to take responsibility for workforce planning and education in the country’s health sector.
“We will want to ensure that the voice of nurses is heard”
Health Education and Improvement Wales (HEIW) will incorporate the work of NHS Wales’ Workforce, Education and Development Services (WEDS) and the deanery within Cardiff University.
Its creation, trialled in the autumn, is in response to a Welsh government commissioned review of investment in health professional education and workforce development led by Mel Evans in 2014.
Welsh health secretary Vaughan Gething also announced that Dr Chris Jones, a GP and experienced health board leader, had been appointed as the new body’s interim chair from 1 October.
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Dr Jones would “guide the transition to HEIW” subject to the legislation necessary for its establishment being approved, he said.
Mr Gething added: “He brings with him a wealth of experience, not least from his successful role as chair of Cwm Taf University Health Board, which will come to an end at the end of September.”
In addition, Mr Gething confirmed that he would publish an action plan and timeline for the creation of HEIW in September this year and then issue a consultation on the detailed proposals for HEIW.
The remit of the HEIW, which will have a similar remit to the existing body Health Education England, will incorporate strategic workforce planning for all aspects of the health workforce.
It will work with NHS organisations to ensure education and training resources – both undergraduate and post graduate –at a national and local level are focused on strategic priorities.
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The body will also work closely with Social Care Wales in relevant areas of its work to develop an integrated view of workforce needs now and in the future across both health and social care.
This will include continuing support and development of shared career opportunities for workers across both sectors.
Responding to the progress update on the new workforce planning body, RCN Wales director Tina Donnelly highlighted the staffing challenges being faced by nursing.
She also drew attention to the recent and sudden decline in European Union nurses coming to work in the UK, which has been linked to both Brexit and language testing requirements.
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“We know that the situation around workforce planning has long been an issue of concern and welcome the opportunity to work with Dr Jones, as the new HEIW takes on the challenges ahead,” said Ms Donnelly.
“However, we will want to ensure that the voice of nurses is heard and that the education, recruitment and retention of quality, professional nurses is given a priority, especially in the light of the impact that the Brexit vote has had on nursing numbers,” she added.