Plans to strengthen the primary care workforce in Wales and help it cope with rising demand through new models of care have been published by the Welsh government.
The primary care workforce plan will be backed by an extra £4.5m of funding, according to health and social Services minister for Wales Mark Drakeford.
“This prudent healthcare approach to developing our primary care workforce will improve access to care”
The plan outlines how the Welsh government will invest in GPs, community nurses, pharmacists, healthcare support workers and other clinical staff to move more services out of hospitals.
It comes against a background of severe GP shortages, especially in rural areas of the north where many doctors are set to retire soon.
The government said the plan supported the continued development of 64 primary care “clusters” across Wales, which include various models of integrated care.
It also includes a number of actions to “stabilise” core sections of the primary care workforce in Wales, such as investing in the recruitment and training of practice nurses and GPs.
For example, there will be resources to support people who want to return to practice or work part-time, explore how training and working in general practice can be encouraged in areas of greatest need and communicate the opportunities afforded by general practice.
Measures directly affecting nurses include:
- Increasing the number of Welsh Government-funded places on return-to-nursing practice courses
- Investing in advanced and extended skills, including non-medical prescribing and advance practice
- Developing an education and training programme for physicians associates in Wales
- Establishing how Wales can move to a position where multi-professional training becomes the norm
- Expanding the range of care settings in which training can be carried out and build on the experiences of learning wards in community settings
In addition, there will be polices targeted specifically at medical staff. These include the expansion of a scheme offering flexible working opportunities to encourage older GP to stay in work part-time, reimbursing medical school fees when a newly-qualified doctor commits to general practice and a national GP recruitment campaign.
Professor Drakeford said the plans were intended to make the most of the “dedicated primary care workforce” already in place and support them to innovate and improve the services they provided.
“This can be achieved by bringing together teams of people with the necessary skills to meet the needs of people and the local communities they serve. It is also important that everyone in those teams works at the top of their clinical competence – they only do what only they can do,” he said.
He added: “This prudent healthcare approach to developing our primary care workforce will improve access to care and the continuity and quality of that care. It is also central to rebalancing the workload of all those who work in primary care so roles and services are sustainable and can adapt to meet future demand.”