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Health Professions Wales

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Jane Hutt, Minister for Health & Social Services

I would like to bring to your attention a new health body in Wales - Health Professions Wales which came into being on 1 April 2002.   It is to be a body which will provide a service for a range of healthcare professions, namely nurses, midwives, health visitors, allied health professionals and healthcare Scientists.

Presently, HPW is a Unit within the National Assembly. This is an interim measure until primary legislation is passed, via the NHS (Wales) Bill, for us to establish an Assembly Sponsored Public Body.

The establishment of HPW has come about as the result of UK wide legislative change to professional regulation. The members of this committee have been informed of these regulatory changes in previous committee papers and discussions.

As a result of these changes the United Kingdom Central Council for Nurses, Midwives and Health Visitors ceased to exist and the Nursing and Midwifery Council has become the new regulatory body. The UKCC and its 4 Boards served the 4 UK countries. These boards not only had a regulatory function but also carried out other functions relevant to developing the professional competence of these staff groups, including quality assurance in post-registration education and training and providing a framework for continued professional development.  

Both Welsh Assembly Government and the nursing professions do not wish to loose the additional non-regulatory functions that the Welsh National Board undertook and therefore a solution has been sought to enable continuity in these areas.  This was tasked to a Change Management Group, chaired by Sir Adrian Webb. They put forward the proposal for the creation of a new body which would embrace a wider range of professional groups and carry out a range of functions to support the policy goals of NHS Wales. Many of these functions build on and expand the excellent work previously undertaken by the WNB.

The membership of the Change Management Group was very much one of real partnership and included Doctors, Dentists, Pharmacists, Nurses, Midwives and Health Visitors, Health Service Managers, Allied Health Professionals and Healthcare Scientists and educationalists. As part of their work, the Change Management Group carried out extensive consultation with stakeholders across Wales. The feedback received was in favour of establishing this new multi-professional body, Health Professions Wales, which I believe will play a very important role in supporting the structural changes to the NHS now being put in place to improve the quality of care we are able to offer our communities in Wales.    Health professions Wales  can, I believe, be a real force for change in helping to deliver our NHS Plan through the support of continued education, training and development of a wide group of healthcare professionals.

NHS Wales employs some seventy-seven thousand staff. Nurses, Midwives and Health Visitors account for approximately thirty thousand and the Allied Health Professions a further eight thousand. Our workforce is our greatest asset. They are essential to the policy reforms we are now successfully delivering. Health Professions Wales will ensure that we further develop this talent.

NHS Wales also depends upon effective and integrated teamwork. This requires that all those professionals who work together in delivering these services have arrangements available for them to also learn and develop together. This will encourage inter professional and cross boundary working. Here HPW will have an important role to play.   It can bring these professionals together, particularly in the area of continuing professional development. With other partners, for example ELWa, the Social Care Council and the Quality Assurance Agency, Health Professions Wales can assist in the development of a common framework for Life Long Learning. We have already seen evidence of such a framework being developed for Nurses, Midwives and Health Visitors, by the Welsh National Board.

The creation of Health Professions Wales is an ideal and timely vehicle for delivering, through these new partnerships, developments in working practices. I am confident that a multi professional body of this nature will enhance and complement other initiatives to strengthen the quality of the NHS Wales workforce.  

The education system needs to prepare health professionals for changing environments and must make them unafraid to embrace change when it is required. This is where Health Professions Wales will play a key role in helping to implement change.

From pre-registration  education to post-registration development and lifelong learning health professionals across Wales need access to excellent professional education and to be confident that career development opportunities are available to all.  

This is why a new body such as Health Professions Wales will have such a dynamic role to play in working together with other professional organisations and educational establishments, to bring about consistent professional standards across health and social care in Wales.