The Welsh Government has announced an additional 111 adult nurse training places and 73 mental health nurse places, as part of efforts to help support the response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
A £250m investment for 2022/23, which is a 15% increase from 2021/22, will also fund 22 extra clinical radiology trainees, as well as maintain the current target of a GP intake of 160 per year with an option to recruit up to 200 ‘when feasible’.
It also includes £18m for education and training programmes, £5m for medical training places, nearly £8m to support core GP training numbers, and nearly £3m extra for pharmacy training.
However, Helen Whyley, director of the RCN in Wales, stressed the Welsh Government must concentrate on retaining current staff alongside expanding student nurse places.
She said: ‘As such, a Welsh Government Retention Strategy is crucial, which must include the assurance of safe nurse staffing levels, access to continuous professional development, flexible working opportunities and fair pay.’
Ms Whyley also deemed it ‘disheartening’ that there was no spending boost for post-registration nursing education such as for district nurses. This comes as official data shows the number of full-time equivalent district nurses numbers dropped by 6% between June 2020 and June 2021 in Wales.
The Welsh Government said this is the eighth consecutive year it has increase funding for training places. Over the past five years, nurse training places have increased by 55.2%, it added.
Meanwhile, Welsh health minister Eluned Morgan said the investment shows the Government’s ‘commitment to supporting the workforce capacity of NHS Wales’ after healthcare staff ‘stepped up to the plate’ and the Covid-19 pandemic placed ‘great demand’ on the NHS.
She continued: ‘We need to keep training and strengthening our workforce, so it is prepared for all future challenges it may face and improve resilience as we bid to recover from the effects of the pandemic.’
Alex Howells, Health Education and Improvement Wales chief executive, said: ‘We are delighted that the education and training plan has been supported and look forward to working with our partners to implement the recommendations.
‘Wales is a great place to train and learn, and we are very grateful to the many staff across the NHS and our education institutions in Wales for the valuable contribution they make to teaching and supporting our future workforce.’
Last month, RCN Wales called on the Welsh Government to join the rest of the UK in publishing national statistics for nursing vacancies, as it is the only one of the four nations not to do so.
And it also projected images of statistics showing the scale of the nursing shortage onto landmarks, in what it described as a ‘direct message’ to the Welsh Government.