As the latest monthly NHS Wales waiting times for hospital treatment are published, 36 organisations from across health and social care, including royal colleges, charities, patient groups and professional bodies, have come together to sign a joint letter to the first minister, calling on the Welsh government to publish the long-awaited national workforce implementation plan for health and care.
Serious challenges face the NHS as we head into a difficult winter, and the impact of workforce shortages on patient care cannot be underestimated as waiting times reach record levels in Wales. Cancer lists and ambulance performance times are currently the worst on record, and overall, waiting list numbers passed 750,000 for the first time in October 2022.
More than 6 months after the launch of the planned care recovery plan (which promised a workforce implementation plan), and as we head into what is likely to be the most difficult winter in the history of the NHS, we are still flying blind, with little to no reliable up-to-date workforce data and no national implementation plan for the recruitment and retention of NHS and social care staff.
We simply don’t know the scale of the NHS workforce crisis facing us.
Anecdotally, we know that health and care staff are overwhelmed and at risk of burnout, and as professional bodies and third sector organisations, our own data show us that doctors, social workers, nurses, pharmacists, therapists and many others are facing a miserable winter.
Commenting on the joint letter, Dr Olwen Williams, RCP vice president for Wales said:
‘Staff shortages mean longer waiting lists. Yet despite repeated promises from the Welsh government, we still don’t have a funded national workforce plan for health and social care – or indeed, any idea of when it will be published. These delays are making a difficult situation worse: without up-to-date vacancy data, we simply don’t know the scale of the problems facing us. Anecdotally, we know that health and care staff are overwhelmed and at risk of burnout, and what’s worse, we’re flying blind without the information we need to plan ahead. Royal colleges, professional bodies and the third sector should be included in these discussions – between us, we represent hundreds of thousands of staff and patients across Wales.’
The latest figures for referral to treatment times should be available from 17 November at 9:30am.