Recruiting enough nurses in Wales is a “major headache” that is unlikely to go away soon, according to an independent review of health education and training.
The government-commissioned review – led by Mel Evans, former chair of Powys Teaching Health Board – called for fundamental changes in workforce planning as a result.
“Nurse recruitment represents a major headache for health boards and commissioners of educational provision”
Crucially the review said a new national body should be created to oversee the planning and commissioning of education and training places for nurses, doctors and other health professionals.
Current arrangements are fragmented and over-complicated, with medical and healthcare professional training places commissioned by separate organisations, concluded the Health Professional Education Investment Review in its report.
Instead, it called for a new, single body to be set up to enable a more co-ordinated approach and ensure money for training and education was spent wisely and fairly.
In particular, it called for an end to the “financial divide” between funding for the training of doctors and dentists, and funding for training non-medical staff such as nurses.
Out of a total healthcare education and training budget of £350m for 2014-15, £268m was allocated to doctors and dentists while just £82m was set aside for non-medics, highlighted the report.
The review set out a number of challenges facing the health service at present, including widespread shortages of nurses.
“At present, nurse recruitment represents a major headache for health boards and commissioners of educational provision, and there is little evidence that this will change significantly in the short-medium term,” warned the report.
In order to address shortages and skills gaps and ensure services cope with shifting demand, the NHS in Wales needed a new strategic vision, it stated.
“I want to take the views of others into account before making any decisions on the way forward”
The review called for a greater emphasis on multi-disciplinary teams and more joint training of different healthcare professionals.
It also said training and education must reflect a shift towards more care in the community, with more practice placements and training opportunities in non-acute settings.
Meanwhile, ongoing professional training and development for those already working in the health service “must become part of the DNA of NHS Wales”.
The review’s findings were broadly welcomed by health minister for Wales Mark Drakeford. However, he announced a further six-week period of consultation on its recommendations.
“I commissioned this report to establish whether the current arrangements represent the best value for Wales or whether changes are required,” he said.
“The report proposes some fundamental changes and I want to take the views of others into account before making any decisions on the way forward.”
In a written statement, he acknowledged the need to ensure workforce planning kept pace with changes in services.
But he also stressed that Wales was part of a wider UK health landscape and there was a need to bring in staff that had been trained elsewhere.
“It is important to recognise the value of cross border flows in respect of workforce and to understand that no part of the United Kingdom can be self-sufficient in this regard,” he said.
“There is a balance to be struck between the level of training and education we fund to grow our own in Wales and the recruitment of individuals who are already trained and have gained wider experience through a variety of employment opportunities,” he added.