A GROWING shortage of nurses in Wrexham’s Maelor Hospital has been highlighted in the Welsh Assembly.
Llyr Gruffydd AM raised his concerns with First Minister Carwyn Jones during questions in the Assembly chamber, saying that the Welsh Government should bear direct responsibility for this failure.
He said: “Latest statistics show that there are 92 nursing posts vacant in Wrexham’s Maelor Hospital at the moment with a growing number of nurses approaching retirement age.
“This shortage is leading to specialist nurses having to work on general wards and to staff being stretched to the limit. At its worst, it will mean ward closures.
“This is a daily and intensifying crisis in the hospital, the largest in North Wales.
“In an attempt to remedy the situation, Betsi Cadwaladr health board have used a private agency to recruit abroad, going to Barcelona and India in recent years.
“In both cases, the benefits have been questionable. Only four nurses from India passed the language test, for example.
“This is a short-term panic measure not a long-term thought-out strategy.
“Will the First Minister accept that the Welsh Government, which has been directly running Betsi Cadwaladr health board for two and a half years now, is responsible for failing to adequately plan to ensure there are enough nurses being trained and recruited here in the North for local hospitals?”
Mr Gruffydd has welcomed the fact that nurse training had restarted at Glyndwr University and praised the university for its pro-active approach to a serious problem for the NHS in North Wales.
He was, however, critical of the Welsh Government and Betsi Cadwaladr for not allowing those students to go on placement to NHS settings in Wales.
He added: “We have 35 trainee nurses who are being trained in Wrexham. In a short time, they could be filling the gaps in the workforce in the Maelor hospital and elsewhere in the North.
“But instead of providing them with placements, obstacles have been put in their way to the extent that they are having to be placed in Chester, Telford and private nursing placements.”
First Minister Carwyn Jones said: “We see that things are improving. For example, there’s been an increase in the number of nurses training in North Wales.
“That figure is now higher than in any year over the past decade. So, we have invested in recruitment and also, of course, in training.
“That means that there’s been an increase of 13 per cent in nursing places in Wales over this financial year.
“We’ve put a £95 million investment into training, and that means that 3,000 new students can now study healthcare programmes in Wales.
“It is challenging, of course, because people don’t wish to come to the United Kingdom any longer because of Brexit, and they feel that they wouldn’t be welcome now.
“Of course, that is something that happened last year, but in order to deal with that, we understand that we need to train more nurses in Wales.
“That is why we’ve seen a significant increase in the numbers being trained.”