NHS Staffing

2. Questions to the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Social Care – in the Senedd at on 5 June 2024.

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Photo of Altaf Hussain Altaf Hussain Conservative


3. What steps is the Welsh Government taking to ensure the NHS has sufficient staff to meet service demands? OQ61193

Photo of Baroness Mair Eluned Morgan Baroness Mair Eluned Morgan Labour 2:36, 5 June 2024

Despite the financial climate, we continue to invest in the sustainability of our NHS workforce, maintaining the significant levels of funding for training new workforce into 2024-25. We are also delivering nationally run programmes to both support ethical international recruitment to close the vacancy gap and invest in retention initiatives.

Photo of Altaf Hussain Altaf Hussain Conservative

Cabinet Secretary, I won't rehearse the issues people are having trying to get to see a GP or a dentist. We all know the impact a lack of strategic workforce planning is having on access to care. However, I do want to concentrate on the impact staff shortages are having on the NHS's ability to respond to emergencies. Last week, the Welsh Ambulance Services University NHS Trust warned that handover delays, which, as you have identified yourself, are in part due to a lack of social care staff, will impact the service's ability to respond to major incidents, including terrorist attacks. Whatever the problem with our NHS, we could always rely upon it in a national emergency, but now, even that is not certain. Therefore, Cabinet Secretary, what steps are you taking to eliminate handover delays and allow ambulance crews to respond to major incidents?

Photo of Baroness Mair Eluned Morgan Baroness Mair Eluned Morgan Labour 2:37, 5 June 2024

Thanks very much. You will be aware that we have more people working in the Welsh NHS than we've ever had before—110,000 workers. That's 12 per cent more than three years ago. And when it comes to medical and dental, we have 12 per cent more. So, that's 892 more than three years ago. So, the numbers are going up, but the demand is also going up. And that's the real issue here: that the demand keeps rising. And you'll be aware, as a clinician yourself, that, with an ageing population, the demands are likely to continue to increase. There is always going to be a limit in terms of budget, and we're all aware that 65 per cent of the money that we spend on the NHS is spent directly on staff.

When it comes to the ambulance service, we have 13 per cent more people than we had three years ago, so significant additional numbers. You're quite right that, when it comes to handover delays, there's a real issue, and it is an issue that we are constantly going at. It is about the relationship, about where the responsibilities are within those health boards, who need to move people on, but also local government. Those constant dialogues, that constant conversation we have with them, being able to really identify where the problem is, what is the blockage, and whose responsibility is the blockage, is absolutely critical. We've done a huge amount of work on that. We've got things like trusted assessors now, so you don't have to wait for somebody from the council to come and check—other people have the confidence of the local authorities to do some of that work to move things on. We've got a long way to go. The key problem, again, is how do you recruit enough care workers. We are paying the real living wage, unlike situations in England; that was not an insignificant investment. But it is still very difficult to recruit people to those roles, and that's where the real challenge is.

When it comes to the terrorist attack, you're quite right, there's an assessment at the moment of what the recommendations were as a result of that attack. So, that is being assessed at the moment, and, obviously, I'll wait for some advice as a result of that.