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Review recommends package of changes for NHS training and education in Wales

The creation of a new, single body for Wales to strategically oversee workforce planning and commission education and training places for the NHS in Wales is one of the headline recommendations of an independent review.

The Health Professional Education Investment Review was commissioned by the Minister for Health and Social Services in August 2014 and was led by Mel Evans OBE. The panel was briefed to review the way the Welsh Government currently invests in the planning, development and commissioning of health professional education and workforce development in Wales.

The panel was unanimous in recommending that a single body must be established for this purpose in order to ensure the health service can respond to the challenges of today and the future.

The single body would provide a more collaborative all-Wales approach to commissioning; address the funding of on-going training and development with a view to establishing a system of continuous improvement; facilitate greater emphasis on the use of multi-disciplinary teams to enable a more cohesive approach to patient management and remove the financial divide that exists between the budget for medical and dental training and that for non-medical professional education and training.

Other unanimous recommendations include the need for a clear and refreshed strategic vision for NHS Wales through to 2030 and the view that the NHS in Wales should be the vehicle for developing Wales as a learning culture. This would help to create the culture of continuous improvement whilst placing a dual emphasis on the continued development of staff, embracing community settings and new technology, and the need for health boards and universities to interact more closely with schools to provide meaningful work experience programmes for all school children.

The Welsh NHS is the largest employer in Wales, with more than 72,000 (full-time equivalent) people directly employed, along with an additional 4,000 independent practitioners. Over the past 10 years the number of frontline staff working in the Welsh NHS has increased by almost 10%.

More than £350m a year is invested in education and training programmes to support more than 15,000 students studying a range of health-related programmes across Wales. These include undergraduate, postgraduate and continuing professional development.

However, the review panel also found the current arrangements for planning and commissioning education and training places are over-complicated and fragmented – medical and healthcare professional places are commissioned by separate organisations – and while there were areas of innovation and collaboration across Wales the arrangements largely focused on maintaining the current delivery models.

Commenting on the review, Mel Evans says: "The recommendations of the review panel attempt to set a framework for change, which, subject to engagement, should allow NHS Wales to move quickly towards a managed programme of coordinated strategic planning and commissioning of education, training and workforce development throughout Wales.

“The role of the 'single body' would be to ensure this coordinated strategic approach and develop measurable performance outcomes, underpinned by the refreshed strategic vision for NHS Wales."

Welcoming the publication of the review, Health and Social Services Minister Mark Drakeford adds: “The NHS workforce is key to delivering the services we require in the future and it is important the investment we make in training and education help to deliver the changes we need going forward.

“I commissioned this report to establish whether the current arrangements represent the best value for Wales or whether changes are required.

“The report proposes some fundamental changes and I want to take the views of others into account before making any decisions on the way forward. I encourage all with an interest to feed in their views during this period of engagement.”

The report will now be subject to a six-week period of engagement with stakeholders.