RCP Cymru Wales has responded this week to the joint draft health and social care workforce strategy from Health Education and Improvement Wales (HEIW) and Social Care Wales.
When HEIW was established in October 2018 as the lead organisation for the education, training, development, and shaping of the healthcare workforce in Wales, one of its first tasks from the Welsh government was to draft the long-awaited first ever national health and social care strategy. The RCP has been working with HEIW since then to influence and shape the ideas and the themes in the strategy; we have been pushing for an ambitious, patient centred and clinically led approach, accompanied by a clear action plan.
The new strategy was published for consultation in July 2019, and it is certainly a step in the right direction. Our response, published earlier this week, strongly welcomes the commitment to placing the health and wellbeing of our workforce at the heart of the strategy. As implementation plans are created and enacted, we expect these to be clinically-led, patient centred and designed using co-production principles.
Health boards and NHS organisations in Wales must ensure that change is genuinely led by patients and clinicians, and not presented as a ‘done deal’ at a late stage in the planning process. Otherwise there is a real risk that any proposed changes will lack ownership, credibility and are unlikely to result in lasting change.
The issue of accountability is also important. Clinicians and healthcare professionals need to know who will be held to account for delivering this strategy and meeting its milestones.
HEIW must also ensure that their workforce strategy is clearly integrated with the proposed Welsh government national clinical plan which is due to be published later in 2019. Delivering patient-centred health and social care services is entirely dependent on a valued, motivated and well-staffed workforce.
The NHS in Wales could do much more to improve the working conditions and the morale of the medical workforce. The RCP Cymru Wales Doing things differently report suggests a wide variety of recommendations to support doctors. Investing in staff health and wellbeing, improving flexibility in rotas, and balancing time between clinical practice and other activities such as training, research and leadership roles will all help to improve the morale of the workforce and the quality of patient care.
Ahead of the 2021 election, our most recent publication, Breaking down barriers, sets out an action plan for the next Welsh government which calls for more patient and clinical engagement in all NHS change. Only then will we see lasting transformation.