Health and social care in Wales is facing its biggest ever challenge

health workers

The NHS across the UK is celebrating 74 years since its creation and this is even more poignant in Wales.

UNISON representatives also attended the annual Bevan Festival in Tredegar on Saturday July 5 this year to celebrate NHS founder Nye Bevan’s enduring legacy.

Many UNISON members and representatives will today take a moment to think what Nye Bevan would make of NHS Wales in 2022, with the enormous challenges staff face in dealing with record numbers of patients waiting for treatment or urgent care.

Whatever spin the Westminster Tory Government would want to put on the state of funding allocated to NHS Wales it is clear that 12 years of austerity and underfunding has further exacerbated the COVID-19 crisis.

Our members are being spread ever thinner, working more hours and still struggling to recruit at rates that sustain the ever ageing or plain exhausted workforce.

We have known for what feels like an infinity the reasons why there are long queues of ambulances outside hospital A&E departments and why beds are being blocked by patients who are waiting for suitable social care packages to be made available.

UNISON acknowledges the Welsh Government manifesto commitment for a national care service and the implementation of at least the real living wage as a start in resolving the poor pay social care workers have historically endured.

The pandemic exposed the fragility of social care with many local authorities having to bail out private providers who are dependent on making a profit.

Only significant and continued investment in the NHS and social care workforce and services will help recruit and retain staff going forward.

Our members are telling us when winter comes it will be a choice between heat or eat and they are using food banks now to sustain their families as food is now so expensive and their wages have never been able to catch up.

With inflation fast approaching 10% we are heading for a perfect storm in-work poverty is real and present in the NHS Wales health and social care workforce.

Healthcare worker and UNISON Cymru/Wales member Beverly Griffiths has worked for the NHS for 17 years but recently had to re-mortgage her home and take on extra shifts just to make ends meet.

Beverly said: “Any tiny increases we have had do not come close to meeting the rising cost of living.

“We have been left with no choice other than to re-mortgage our home to have money left over each month after paying our ever-increasing utility bills, childcare and to cover the rising cost of weekly food shopping, fuel and other essentials.”

Another health worker told UNISON: “Both myself and my partner work full time for the NHS and can no longer afford to live in our existing house due to costs increasing beyond our salaries.”

The union has also heard from a care worker who relies on their car who said: “I have been finding I am having to choose, to not use the car as much to take my children out on the weekend, so I can use the fuel to get to work and around the community, as I can’t afford to keep filling up my car.”

Shortages of NHS staff is nothing new and the pandemic has taken the strain on the workforce to a new level.

Without more healthcare assistants, midwives, porters, nurses and cleaning staff we will continue to see cancelled operations, long queues of ambulances and patients stuck on wards when they should be discharged into the community.

The pay review bodies are due to report to governments and ministers should do their bit and put pay right otherwise patients will still be anxious and in pain waiting for their care and all the while experienced NHS UNISON members are telling us they could get paid the same for working in hospitality.

Reward our members appropriately and you will retain them and recruit much needed staff to deal with the shortages.