Despite increasing to record levels, the NHS workforce in Wales continues to face challenges with recruitment and retention, sickness absence and a heavy reliance on temporary staff.

Having a healthy, motivated, and sustainable workforce is central to the success of the NHS. However, the NHS workforce is under significant pressure as the service looks to recover backlogs in planned care and deal with heightened urgent and emergency care demand.

Audit Wales is currently undertaking detailed examinations of workforce planning arrangements in each of the NHS bodies in Wales. As context for that work, they have produced a briefing that brings together a wide range of data on the NHS workforce in Wales.

Their data briefing shows that the NHS workforce in Wales continues to grow with a 27 per cent increase in workforce numbers since 2012-13. It also shows that the NHS in Wales is committed to being a flexible employer and to grow its own workforce through the provision of training and education.

However, the NHS workforce in Wales continues to face a number of on-going challenges:

  • There were 6,800 vacancies across all staff groups at the end of March 2022, with notable gaps of nearly 2,500 staff in nursing and midwifery.
  • More staff are leaving the NHS than at any other time in the last five years.
  • Overall levels of sickness absence have grown and equated to an estimated 1.4 million working days in 2022-23.
  • There is a continued and growing reliance on agency staff which represented 5.5 per cent of the overall NHS workforce in 2022-23, at a cost of £325 million.

Auditor General, Adrian Crompton said:

“This data briefing aims to provide insight into the NHS workforce in Wales and some of the challenges it faces. Alongside the work on workforce planning my auditors are undertaking at each NHS body in Wales, I hope it can be a stimulus for taking forward the essential actions needed to strengthen the NHS workforce.”