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National staff bank urgently needed for NHS Wales

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Health boards in Wales should create an “all-Wales bank” as part of efforts to reduce reliance on agency staff, according to a major NHS workforce review.

The establishment of a national staff bank “as a matter of urgency” was among 40 separate recommendations from the independent review, set up by the Welsh government last year.

“Now is the time to focus on strengthening our NHS workforce”

Tina Donnelly

Led by David Jenkins, chair of Aneurin Bevan University Health Board, the review saw an expert panel explore issues such as pay and new ways of working.

It flagged up over-reliance on agency staff as a major issue that must be addressed to reduce “risks to quality” and the “excessive financial pressures” on the NHS.

“The increasing dependence on agency and locum staff to remedy supply deficits was highlighted by the majority of respondents,” said the review’s report, which was based on evidence from staff, managers, unions and others.

“This was widely regarded as unsustainable and unacceptable and, while the panel is aware of work being undertaken within Wales to address the costs associated with locum and agency staff, a more immediate response is required,” it said.

The creation of an “all-Wales” bank was proposed by the Royal College of Nursing, which said nurses who signed up should be guaranteed a 37.5 hour week contract.

“This would ensure unplanned absences across Wales were covered by a workforce that could be moved within its geographical area at times of immediacy and slightly further afield when known staff challenges are going to present,” said the RCN in its submission to the review.

The panel called for health boards to work together to change existing bank arrangements so staff like nurses could move between organisations.

At the same time, boards should review bank employment terms to ensure they were “sufficiently attractive” to potential employees.

They should also “consider the effectiveness of overtime payments” as a way of reducing reliance on “premium-rate agency staff”.

Aneurin Bevan University Health Board

National staffing bank urgently needed for NHS Wales

David Jenkins

However, the review highlighted the importance of non-financial incentives when it came to recruiting and retaining staff – such as good training opportunities.

It said “learning contracts” should be offered to existing staff, trainees and others considering coming to work for the NHS in Wales.

“Career development and skill enhancement can serve as a clear demonstration that staff are valued and counter the issues that are contributing to some of the morale problems among the workforce,” stated the report.

In addition, the review said the government should work with boards and education authorities to look at how the NHS could make the best use of apprenticeship schemes.

On the matter of pay, the review concluded the NHS in Wales should stick to UK-wide terms and conditions under the Agenda for Change contract.

But it said there was a need to review salaries for those in executive and senior posts – not including doctors and dentists – to eliminate “distortions”, with some senior managers being paid above the maximum of their pay band.

When it came to new ways of working, the panel said the Welsh government needed to set out a clear vision for bringing together health and social care services.

Meanwhile, it highlighted that it was vital health and social care staff were able to jointly discuss and influence the development of integrated services.

The report, which comes ahead of Welsh Assembly elections in May, was welcomed by the RCN.

Royal College of Nursing Wales

National staffing bank urgently needed for NHS Wales

Tina Donnelly

“Nurses and healthcare support workers make up the largest group of NHS employees,” said RCN Wales director Tina Donnelly.

“We were pleased to see the importance of UK-wide terms and conditions for healthcare staff working in the NHS and the value of equal pay,” she said.

“Also, the recommendations offer a strong emphasis on integration of health and social care,” added Ms Donnelly.

“It is essential any integration of services strengthens services rather than fragment them,” she said. “Now is the time to focus on strengthening our NHS workforce. We look forward to working with the next Welsh government.”

According to latest workforce figures published yesterday, the total number of nursing, midwifery and health visiting staff has increased by 383 to 28,684 since 2014.

There are now 20,873 qualified nurses and 1,319 registered midwives.

 

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