Unpaid overtime and reliance on agency nurses in Wales must stop, RCN says

College briefs government with aim of informing its forthcoming workforce strategy 

College briefs government with aim of informing its forthcoming workforce strategy 

Picture: Pete Coburn

The burden of unpaid overtime for nurses in Wales has reached unacceptable levels, the RCN has said.

RCN Wales director Helen Whyley said the amount of unpaid hours every week equates to the work of 976 full-time nurses. 

Large spend on agency nurses

Ms Whyley also cited the Welsh Government’s spend on agency nurses as evidence of a nursing shortage in the country.

She said NHS Wales had spent £63.8 million on agency nursing in 2018-19, equivalent to the salaries of 2,635 newly qualified nurses.

The Welsh Government has commissioned a workforce strategy from Health Education and Improvement Wales, and Social Care Wales, which is expected to be published in November.

RCN Wales has submitted a briefing to the government, which it hopes will inform the strategy. The document, A Workforce Strategy for Wales, calls for more work to enforce the safe staffing law introduced in Wales in 2016, including the provision of adequate breaks for nurses.

The briefing also calls for the workforce strategy to advise on flexible working, improve access to continuing professional development, and support the whole nursing pathway from healthcare support workers to nurse directors. 

Increasing the number of nurse training places

Responding to the issues of unpaid overtime and agency nurse spend, a Welsh government spokesperson said: ‘We are expanding the number of nurse training places in Wales, have retained the NHS bursary and continue to support recruitment through our Train Work Live campaign.

‘We will continue to work with NHS Wales to reduce agency nurse costs and use.’

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