Nurse recruitment campaign under way in Wales

Nurses at the campaign launch with Vaughan Gething
Image caption Nurses at the campaign launch with Vaughan Gething

A major recruitment campaign has been launched to increase the number of nurses on wards and in the community.

Health Secretary Vaughan Gething said it was about "positively promoting" nursing as a job and Wales as a place to live and work.

The Welsh Government also stressed student nursing bursaries would continue for another year for those who sign up to work for two years.

The campaign has used real nurses to tell their stories.

There are nearly 29,400 nurses, midwives and health visitors, which make up the largest proportion of the NHS Wales' workforce.

But around a quarter leave the profession or retire each year, according to the Royal College of Nursing (RCN).

The shortage is a global one and the health service in Wales is competing with other countries.

The international campaign will target newly-qualified and experienced nurses, as well as those considering returning to the profession.

It follows a successful GP recruitment programme to bring junior doctors to Wales.

Mr Gething added: "We know we need more nurses and it's about how we go about doing that."

He said unlike in England, the Welsh Government had made a choice to keep the bursary for student nurses for at least another year - worth up to £9,000 in grant and loans.

It is available to those who commit in advance to taking up a job with NHS Wales for at least two years after qualifying.

"Maintaining the nurse bursary at a time when it has gone in England is very powerful statement of the deliberate choice we're making to continue investing in nursing," Mr Gething said.

"The extra numbers of nurse trainees we've announced in Wales, it's much more significant than in Scotland and there's a very different approach in England.

"This really does show how Wales is positively different for a purpose - and the campaign is designed to make sure nurses come here, that they're supported and enjoy their life here, not just in work but outside."

The Department of Health in England, where the bursary ended in 2016, would not comment on the Welsh announcement.

The Scottish Government has also made a commitment to keep the bursary.

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Media captionNurse Arniel Hernando came over from his native Philippines after working in America and Saudi Arabia

Arniel Hernando came to work at Ysbyty Gwynedd in Bangor in 2000 from the Philippines with 70 others.

Nursing is a global marketplace and Wales has to compete for staff with different parts of the world.

"I've worked here for 17 years," he said. "I've been supported by my managers and done my MSc in advanced clinical practice.

"Everywhere I go, the people are friendly and easy to work with.

"I moved away to London for the year but realised it was not for me. I appreciated this area more, missed the life, the people. I'll probably stay here until I retire."

Chief nursing officer Prof Jean White said: "We have a number of acute hospitals we're looking to recruit to and we have an ageing population, and we're cleverer at doing things and we're doing treatments that were once frankly beyond us. It means our nurse workforce is changing."

Tina Donnelly, director of the RCN in Wales, said: "Encouraging these individuals to work in Wales must continue until we see stable workforce levels that our NHS requires to function efficiently and effectively, allowing patients to receive the highest standard of care possible."

Community staff nurse Rebecca Hagerty, working in Merthyr Tydfil, said the campaign was excellent.

"Work is very important but you get that work-life balance when you work for Cwm Taf [health board]," she said.

"Overall, it's a very supportive trust to work for and there are lots of activities and things to do if you come here to work and opportunities to let your hair down for a bit outside work."

Image copyright NHS Wales
Image caption A poster for the This Is Wales campaign - stressing the work/life balance

Welsh Conservative health spokeswoman, Angela Burns, said her party supported the drive and hoped it would eventually mean health boards would no loner have to rely on expensive agency staff.

Plaid Cymru's health spokesman Rhun ap Iorwerth said the actions were welcomed but blamed the shortage on Welsh Government failures to "carry out sufficient planning".

A spokesperson for the Welsh Liberal Democrats said: "We were proud to lead through the Assembly a landmark piece of legislation making Wales the first part of Europe with a legal duty for staffing levels, giving nurses the time they need to give the proper care and attention to our loved ones."

A UKIP spokesman said it was "an appalling indictment" of the Welsh Government that recruitment campaigns were necessary. "UKIP Wales is also concerned that we have to advertise internationally when these jobs should go to people already living in Wales."

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