Healthcare organisations’ letter to Drakeford over Welsh NHS concerns

A GROUP of 33 organisations from across the health and social care sector have written a joint letter to first minister Mark Drakeford calling in him to take action to mitigate workforce shortages.

The letter comes following the publication of the most recent waiting times figures for Wales, which are once again at record levels.

They signatories are calling on the Welsh Government to publish the long-awaited national workforce implementation plan for health and care.

Organisations which have signed the letter include royal colleges, charities, patient groups and professional bodies.

The full list of signatories is as follows:

  1. Asthma + Lung UK Cymru;
  2. British Association of Social Workers;
  3. British Dental Association Cymru Wales;
  4. British Liver Trust;
  5. British Society for Heart Failure;
  6. Cancer Research UK;
  7. College of Paramedics;
  8. Faculty of Intensive Care Medicine;
  9. Fair Treatment for the Women of Wales;
  10. Hospice UK;
  11. Kidney Wales;
  12. Marie Curie Cymru;
  13. MS Society Cymru;
  14. Parkinson’s UK Cymru;
  15. Prostate Cancer UK;
  16. Royal College of Anaesthetists;
  17. Royal College of Emergency Medicine;
  18. Royal College of General Practitioners;
  19. Royal College of Nursing;
  20. Royal College of Physicians;
  21. Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh;
  22. Royal College of Occupational Therapists;
  23. Royal College of Podiatry;
  24. Royal College of Radiologists;
  25. Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists;
  26. Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh;
  27. Royal College of Surgeons of England;
  28. Royal Pharmaceutical Society;
  29. RNIB Cymru;
  30. Society and College of Radiographers;
  31. Stroke Association;
  32. Tenovus Cancer Care;
  33. Wales Neurological Alliance.

 

The organisers warn serious challenges face the NHS as we head into a difficult winter, and workforce shortages will continue to have a major impact on patient care.

The Royal College of Physicians (RCP) say “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 shows us that doctors, social workers, nurses, pharmacists, therapists and many others are facing a miserable winter,” the RCP say

The RCP and other signatories have revealed the following:

  • Only 36 per cent of advertised consultant physician posts in Wales were filled in 2021 (RCP);
  • 49 per cent of consultant physicians in Wales have an excessive workload ‘almost always’ or ‘most of the time’ (RCP);
  • 89 per cent of pharmacists feel at high risk of burnout, with a third considering leaving their roles and the profession (RPS);
  • 70 per cent of pharmacists report ‘inadequate staffing’ and 64 per cent highlight ‘long hours and a lack of work/life balance’ (RPS);
  • A fifth of the emergency medicine consultant workforce in Wales plan to retire by 2027 (RCEM);
  • Wales has the lowest ratio of specialist clinical oncologists to patients in the UK (RCR);
  • A third of GPs expect to leave their role within five years (RCGP);
  • Frontline social worker teams are carrying vacancies that equate to 10 per cent of the social work team workforce (BASW);
  • There is a shortfall of around 150 anaesthetists (including consultant and SAS doctors) in Wales (RCoA);
  • The number of dentists working for the NHS has dropped nearly eight per cent since 2020 (BDA).

Commenting on the joint letter, Dr Olwen Williams, vice president for Wales at the Royal College of Physicians 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.”

Professor Jon Barry, director in Wales at the Royal College of Surgeons of England said: “The NHS in Wales is bracing for a winter like none it has seen before.

“With signs of an early flu season, the continuing effects of Covid-19, and looming industrial action, the period will be exceptionally difficult.

“At the same time, hospitals are grappling with low staff morale and burnout, leading to gaps in work rotas. In surgery, the reality is, without more nurses and anaesthetic staff to support surgeons in theatre, we will struggle to bring record waiting lists down.

“There is no overnight fix. While we acknowledge that there are many other factors at play, it is difficult to see how, without a clear workforce strategy, we can begin to emerge from the crisis our health service is facing.

“We cannot wait any longer – the Welsh government must set out a timeline for publishing its much-anticipated workforce strategy.

“As clinicians, we do not want to let our patients down, but I fear that the longer they remain on waiting lists, the greater the chances become that we do.’

Dr Russell Gidney, chair of the Welsh General Dental Practice Committee said: “Dentistry currently faces the worst recruitment crisis in living memory.

“We’re seeing practice owners handing back their contracts or reducing their commitment simply because they can’t find dentists willing to work in a broken NHS system.”

Pamela Healy, chief executive of the British Liver Trust said: “Liver disease patients in Wales face huge inequalities in access to specialist care which is a major barrier to improving outcomes for patients.

“Urgent action needs to address the chronic shortage of hepatologists and liver nurse specialists and tackle geographic disparities in access to care.”

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