Wales’ leading think tank for health and care recommends new ‘core health carer’ roles to meet patient needs
A new Bevan Commission report on the health and care workforce of Wales recommends that traditional roles must undergo a rapid transformation to keep pace with the needs of patients and communities.
The report, A Workforce fit for future health and care: aligned to a prudent social model of health, calls for a new generation of health and care professionals with core skills in problem solving, digital expertise and communications. It suggests that different roles encompassing these skills will become increasingly vital, such as lifestyle coaches and health technologists. It also reinforces the need to embrace the potential of the ‘unseen’ workforce, including the public, patients, carers and volunteers.
Wales recruits its health and care workforce in a globally competitive market, and the Bevan Commission report argues for novel approaches to training and development to attract talented professionals. These include: health apprenticeships, joint bursaries with the commercial life sciences sector and continued collaboration between academia, the NHS and patients, brokered by organisations such as Life Sciences Hub Wales. It also urges introducing more flexible career pathways suited to people’s family and care needs to retain health and care staff.
The report also highlights the urgent issue of absence rates in the NHS Wales workforce. These are higher in the NHS workforce in Wales (5.5%) than in the wider Welsh workforce (2.6%) and are the highest for any region in the UK. It calls upon leaders in Wales to ensure that a fit and healthy NHS workforce is appropriately safeguarded and to end the reliance on agency staff to fill the gaps.
The report tasks the new special health authority, Health Education and Improvement Wales (HEIW), with implementing its recommendations in collaboration with local Health Boards, NHS Trusts, professional organisations and regional planning boards in Wales.
Professor Sir Mansel Aylward, Chair, Bevan Commission, says:“This report from the Bevan Commission represents a watershed moment in the way we think about the health and care workforce of Wales. Pressures on the workforce in terms of absence rates and recruitment cannot be ignored, and we need radical methods to meet these challenges and those of the future. The Bevan Commission is unafraid of transformational change and our call to move away from traditional roles; to engage members of the public in the workforce, reflects our commitment to revolutionise health and care for the better. Wales needs bold and creative thinking to make a health and care system fit for the future and this report offers a major contribution towards this.”
Helen Howson, Director, Bevan Commission, says: “The NHS is facing major challenges in terms of workforce recruitment, retention and development. Our report examines the future of the health and care workforce through a prudent lens to use everyone’s skills to best effect – not just those within the NHS. Although the challenges facing the health and care workforce may seem monumental, Wales has an exciting opportunity with the newly established HEIW to address these through training and collaboration. We hope that HEIW and leaders across Wales will implement our recommendations to ensure a sustainable pipeline of talent for our NHS to keep pace with the patient needs of today and tomorrow.”