Questions to the Minister for Health and Social Services: Staff Retention in the Welsh NHS (25/09/2019)

Janet:

Will the Minister make a statement on staff retention in the Welsh NHS?

 

Minister for Health and Social Services:

Yes. Recruitment and retention is a priority for the Welsh Government and the national health service. Health boards and trusts are leading on initiatives to improve retention, such as return to practice and improving staff well-being. The Welsh Government has also put in place a range of measures to increase the supply of healthcare professionals.

 

Janet:

Thank you, Minister. Through written Assembly questions, I have unearthed an alarming fact about the number of nurses in Wales: 4,727 have left the Welsh NHS since 2016/17. And get this: in 2018/19, there were more leavers than joiners. We need more registered nurses to deliver care, and as the Royal College of Nursing in Wales has advised, this requires a focus on both recruitment and addressing retention. As it stands, however, increasing recruitment is not sustainable without improving retention rates. So, Minister, will you commit to investigating why there is such a high number of leavers in Wales, and will you develop an NHS workforce strategy that is focused on providing safe working conditions and more flexible working to actually help our hardworking nurses across Wales?

 

Minister for Health and Social Services:

The Member may have picked up and forgotten, when reading out her supplementary question, that we talked about the NHS workforce strategy in response to two questions earlier on today. I recognise that, last year, the last year for which we have figures, there were 65 more leavers than joiners in terms of the nursing workforce; that is in contrast to a steady trend of increases in nursing numbers. Between 2009-18, nursing numbers have gone up by 3.8 per cent in total. The Member reflects figures of people who have left the service, but, of course, we are recruiting each year as well. The Member will also know that we have regularly rehearsed within this Chamber the work that we are doing on looking to recruit further nurses. The ‘Train. Work. Live.’ campaign has been successful. In fact, the Royal College of Nursing themselves have been complimentary about that particular campaign. It's also a matter of fact that, in the last five years, we've increased nurse training places by 68 per cent in Wales. So, we are doing all that we can and should do to increase the number of nurses coming into the profession, as with, indeed, the work that we are doing—the Member referred to some of it—on making sure we have more flexible patterns that reflect the reality of someone's work to try to make sure that we retain the nurses that we currently have as well. The big factor, of course, that will affect some of our ability to recruit nurses in the future is our continuing relationship with Europe, where we still recruit and have a number of European Union and wider economic area nurses within the NHS family.