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Staff shortage issues were raised at the Senedd today, Tuesday (Oct 4).

Plaid Cymru’s Rhun ap Iorwerth MS asked the First Minister about staffing at Ysbyty Gwynedd. He said that rotas there clearly continue to be a problem. He said: “One recent e-mail from staff refers to the Hergest mental health unit, with staff morale at an all-time low, poor recruitment and retention, high sickness and poor working conditions. The result: more and more use of agency staff.

The Plaid Cymru MS then asked: “When will the Welsh Government really get to grips with this unsustainable and expensive overreliance on agency workers and the rota difficulties that that perpetuates?

“This is resource that should be spent on supporting and improving working conditions for staff at Ysbyty Gwynedd and hospitals the length and breadth of Wales.”

The First Minister agreed and said that he would rather have people working directly as employees of the NHS, or in bank arrangements under the control of the NHS, than people working in agency arrangements. He said: “In the end, these are individuals making decisions in their own lives. You cannot direct people as to how they would themselves choose to organise their own employment arrangements.

“The way the Welsh Government has attempted to make a difference is both in changing the rules—we have a new rules system that makes it more attractive for people to take part in bank arrangements and less attractive for people to be in agencies—and by increasing the number of staff available. There’s been a 44 per cent growth in nursing, midwifery and health visitors here in Wales over the period of devolution; we need to grow that further. For each of the last seven years, we have increased the number of nurses and midwives in training here in Wales. When we succeed in getting those people into the workplace, then we will be in a position where we can make working arrangements in the NHS effective so that the attractions of moving to become an agency employee will be lessened and we’ll be able to lessen our reliance on those arrangements in return.”

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