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Snowed under: winter pressures in Wales

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As the Welsh NHS enters a second pandemic winter, 17 medical royal colleges and faculties convened by RCP Cymru Wales have come together with a joint statement calling for national action on workforce shortages, health inequalities and the NHS backlog.

As the Welsh government publishes its winter pressures plan, and on the first anniversary of the Welsh ‘firebreak’, thousands of patients, GPs and hospital doctors face growing waiting lists and a deepening winter care crisis. Royal colleges are calling on the Welsh government to:

  • value the NHS workforce with a national recruitment, retention and staff recovery plan
  • tackle avoidable illness with a cross-government strategy on health inequalities
  • reduce the impact of the NHS backlog on patient safety and medical education.

Royal colleges and faculties are calling for a clear plan to end the unsustainable pressure healthcare workers face. The 17 organisations, which together represent thousands of NHS doctors, have joined together to call for national action on workforce planning, including regular, transparent and detailed reporting on how national staffing numbers and patient demand are informing long-term plans.

Staffing shortages present a key barrier to tackling the NHS backlog and reducing waiting lists. The Welsh government should expand medical school places as soon as possible.

Dr Olwen Williams, Royal College of Physicians vice president for Wales said:

‘It’s simple really. Workforce, workforce, workforce. The main reason we are struggling with waiting lists and the backlog is that we don’t have enough staff to cope. There aren’t enough doctors and nurses in the Welsh NHS, and those who are left are exhausted and demoralised. Morale is low. I don’t know how we’re going to get through the winter to be honest.

‘An ageing population with long-term illness, growing obesity, advances in genomics and new technologies will all mean increased demand for doctors. Hospital activity – both emergency and elective – is steadily rising, and the backlog is not getting any smaller. It’s an incredibly difficult time to be working in medicine.’