Shocking new statistics on staff shortages at health board
A Plaid Cymru MS has said he’s shocked but not surprised to learn that one in eight nursing and midwifery jobs in north Wales are vacant.
The problems facing the medical profession within Betsi Cadwaladr health board are even more pressing with 20% of posts filled by temporary locum doctors and a further 8% vacancy rate
The new figures emerged from a Freedom of Information request from Plaid Cymru’s North Wales regional MS Llyr Gruffydd. He said growing concerns about over-stretched and over-worked frontline medical, nursing and midwifery staff had prompted the enquiry. He said he was shocked but not surprised at the level of vacancies: “From talking to nurses, doctors and allied health professionals across the North for some years, Plaid Cymru has been aware of staff shortages for some time. These have severe knock-on effects on those who are dealing with rising demands for care.
“Staff are having to cover for absent colleagues, they’re getting burnt out, they’re retiring as soon as they can, they’re cutting back on their hours. To compensate, Betsi Cadwaladr is having to spend millions each year on locum doctors and agency nurses – burning through their budgets as a consequence.
“In some departments, staff shortages are becoming critical and work is having to be relocated over the border in England at extra cost to the health board. This is not sustainable.”
He said this was having a greater knock-on effect on patient care: “One unseen consequence of staff shortages is that there are more than 100 beds across the North not currently in use. Although some of this is down to Covid-19, this would appear to be largely down to staff shortages. There aren’t enough nurses to staff these wards. That means patients needing a bed often have to wait in A&E and that, in turn, means ambulances have to wait longer outside all our general hospitals.
“I’ve been banging on about improving workforce planning – to train, retain and recruit more doctors, nurses and allied healthcare professionals – for the past decade and I regret to say that the Welsh Government and health board have been incredibly slow to take action. We’ve finally getting a medical school in the North and we’re finally seeing some more specialist nurse and allied health profession training at Wrexham as well as Bangor. But it’s too little, too late and the people of north Wales are the ones who are suffering as a result of Government and health board inaction. These latest figures are shocking but not surprising – we know how bad it is and we should never accept this level of staff shortages as ‘normal’ or acceptable.
“The consequence of these staff shortages is a vicious circle where those remaining have to work flat out to cover the gaps. It’s not a sustainable model especially after the impact of Covid, which has had a devastating effect on many health professionals.”
Mr Gruffydd made a direct plea to the Welsh health minister: “A decade ago, BCUHB announced with a fanfare that ‘healthcare in north Wales is changing’. It did so by closing more than 50 community care beds in four towns and centralising key services. Yes, healthcare has changed – for the worse.
“I’m calling on the Welsh Government, which took the health board into special measures seven years ago but failed to address many of the key problems it faced than and now, to recognise the ongoing staffing challenges we face in the North. Let’s have an honest and open conversation about fixing this problem on the frontline as well as addressing the chronic problem at senior management level where the board is now on its seventh chief executive in nine years.”