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Wales single workforce body plans 'need improvements'

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Plans to bring the education budget for different health professions in Wales under one body may not necessarily bring about the significant workforce changes the country needs, academics have warned.

They claimed the establishment of a single workforce body in England had not guaranteed long term planning to support health service transformation, and warned against any future workforce body in Wales making the same mistakes.

“In the absence of a [workforce transformation] framework…the patterns of workforce planning/commissioning and funding are likely to remain much as they are now”

Council of Deans and Cyngor

The Council of Deans of Health, which represents heads of university nursing and midwifery faculties, and Cyngor, which represents all health departments in Welsh higher education, were responding as part of a consultation to a recent independent review of health education and training

The government-commissioned review called for fundamental changes in workforce planning to address problems around recruiting health professionals in Wales, including that of nurses which it described as a “major headache”.

Its key recommendation was the creation of a new national body to oversee the planning and commissioning of education and training places for nurses, doctors and other health professionals.

In their joint consultation response, the Council of Deans and Cyngor highlighted that despite the creation of workforce planning body Health Education England in 2012, commissioning patterns in England for allied health professions in particular had remained virtually unchanged in the past three years.

They said it was important that the proposed singular workforce body in Wales created a framework about how services could be provided by different health professions, to aid “difficult decisions” about decommissioning training places and to support changes in planning.

“With growth in the role of the private and voluntary sectors in health and social care, any new commissioning and planning body will need to take these employers into account”

Council of Deans and Cyngor

“In the absence of such a framework, it is much less likely that the difficult decisions about decommissioning, which would be necessary to effect workforce transformation will happen and the patterns of workforce planning/commissioning and the associated funding are likely to remain much as they are now,” they said.

The organisations also noted that a recent major report on nurse training in England led by Lord Willis – which suggested a review of the four fields of nurse training and the potential introduction of a community nursing specialism – could have an impact on the proposed workforce planning body.

They said the body should have a specific remit to liaise with regulatory organisations such as the Nursing and Midwifery Council to ensure it is aware of any changes to the training of health professionals.

In addition, the bodies said the Wales workforce planning review should be expanded beyond NHS Wales to look at how the private and voluntary sectors play a role in providing education placements and employment for workers.

“The growth of research capacity, including clinical academics, should be foregrounded more explicitly in implementation of the recommendations”

Council of Deans and Cyngor

“With growth in the role of the private and voluntary sectors in health and social care, any new commissioning and planning body will need to take these employers into account in workforce planning and to consider the options for these sectors to contribute to the costs of education and training,” they said.

The review was also “relatively silent” on the importance of research in underpinning education, added the Council of Deans and Cyngor.

“We believe that growth of research capacity, including clinical academics, should be foregrounded more explicitly in implementation of the recommendations,” they said.

They said that while progress had been made, there was still “much more work” to be done to develop research opportunities for nursing, midwifery and allied health professionals.

The Health Professional Education Investment Review, led by former chair of Powys Teaching Health Board Mel Evans, published its report in April.

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.

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