Flexible working needed to help retain nurses

(Title Image: BBC Wales)

The Motion

The Senedd:

  • Notes the Royal College of Nursing Wales’s report Progress and Challenge: the Implementation of the Nurse Staffing Levels Act 2016.
  • Notes more nurses leave the NHS than join.
  • Calls on the Welsh Government to set out how the Welsh NHS will increase the opportunities for flexible working as part of a national nursing retention strategy.

Nurse retention “a serious problem”

Helen Mary Jones AM (Plaid, Mid & West Wales) ran through some of the findings from the report which suggested that while there has been progress in implementing the Act, there are areas not going as well as they should.

The most serious problem is the retention of nurses, with more nurses leaving the NHS than joining it, with 1,600 nursing vacancies existing – which she described as approaching a crisis.

Shadow Health Minister, Angela Burns AM (Con, Carms. W. & S. Pembs.), laid out how reliant the NHS is on nurse overtime:


Dr Dai Lloyd AM (Plaid, South Wales West) called for the number of trainee nurses to double and also safeguards for whistleblowers who express concern about the workforce planning. He underlined the importance of nurses, citing evidence showing a correlation between an increase in degree-level nurses and a 7% reduction in patient deaths.

“Now, I’m very pleased also that the nursing bursary is still here in Wales. That’s critical because that encourages more to come along…But we must ensure that, once they’re in the profession, they’re given a healthy environment to work in, a safe environment for their patients, and a stress-free, as much as possible, environment, so that they do not burn out.”
– David Rees AM (Lab, Aberavon)

Caroline Jones AM (BXP, South Wales West) reminded the chamber that the Act was introduced by an (at the time) opposition member, the Lib Dems’ Kirsty Williams, in response to mismanagement by the Welsh Government – including the lack of nationwide workforce planning and a “botched reorganisation”.

Act has had a positive effect

Health Minister, Vaughan Gething (Lab, Cardiff S. & Penarth), said nursing was a challenge everywhere and the English nurse vacancy rate is double that of Wales. Nonetheless, the Act has had some positive impacts.

“For example, we know that, following the implementation of the Act, more than £17 million of additional funding was invested in increasing our nursing workforce in adult acute medical and surgical wards…..We hear regularly from nurses, right up to the most senior levels, that the Act has made a clear difference to the weight attached to their professional judgment when they have what can be difficult conversations about nurse staffing levels with their colleagues.”
– Health Minister, Vaughan Gething

1,900 nurses have been retained over the last five years and the number of trainee nursing places has increased since 2014 from 1,053 to 1,987.

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