The Health Minister has today published an ambitious series of actions that will be taken forward over the next three years to help address workforce challenges.
The newly published action plan is the second instalment under the Department’s long term ‘Health and Social Care Workforce Strategy 2026: Delivering for Our People’.
Minister Swann said: “Our current strategy for Northern Ireland’s health and social care workforce was first published in 2018 and while activity was hampered by the pandemic, we still achieved significant progress in a range of areas.
“We now have the highest ever number of pre-registration nursing and midwifery places commissioned and there are almost 600 additional nurses in post as a result of our international recruitment. We have also seen the successful introduction of the Physician Associate role across the HSC and trainee doctors are now under a single employer arrangement.
“Despite this progress, many of the challenges previously identified remain and further challenges have emerged as a result of the pandemic’s effects. This second action plan which will take us up to 2024/25 will seek to build a health and social care system that has the right numbers of appropriately-trained staff, with the right skills mix, while also ensuring that conditions are in place to help health and social care become an employer, and a trainer, of choice.”
The Minister continued: “One of my key priorities over the next three years is to see a meaningful and sustained reduction in the level of expenditure on agency and locum staffing. I have tasked a Working Group drawn from across HSC and led by Neil Guckian, the WHSCT Chief Executive, to identify and develop specific actions that will be taken to deliver this ambition and I look forward to receiving the proposals from that Group when they are finalised.”
Outlining the funding position, Minister Swann said: “My Department has been clear that an increased and sustained investment is necessary to support our ambitions for the health and social care workforce and to ensure full implementation of this second action plan. Currently, the Department does not have the funding necessary to deliver all of the actions which have been identified as necessary by stakeholders. Securing the necessary funding will not be easy or straightforward but my Department will explore every opportunity going forward to secure additional funding as the costs of implementation become clearer.”
Concluding the Health Minister said: “The experiences of the last two years have demonstrated to me that the system simply could not function without the skill, dedication and commitment of our talented, hard-working staff, across all disciplines, professions and levels. This action plan has been developed in partnership with staff and stakeholders from across the health and social care system. For their sake and for the wider public, we must all work together to deliver on these actions.”