HUNDREDS of doctors, nurses and other healthcare staff are being recruited to jobs created in the NHS in Gwent to help it cope with the coronavirus crisis.

Ensuring enough staff have been, and continue to be, available to meet unprecedented demand caused by the pandemic is crucial, a health board report describing staffing implications as "significant", particularly regarding "general hospital and critical care capacity".

With the Aneurin Bevan University Health Board area the first in Wales affected by the disease, early in March, a quick response was crucial, not least in making sure the workforce was sizeable enough.

By early May a successful recruitment campaign had resulted in 750 job offers to a range of applicants - there were more than 2,000 - including doctors, registered nurses, healthcare support workers, and patient care assistants.

These comprised a mixture of new applicants and people returning to NHS professions, and many have completed a fast track process of employment checks and induction.

The health board has also - working closely with universities and training body Health Education and Improvement Wales - brought in nursing and medical students to deploy across Gwent, and has received support from its counterparts in Wales, for instance with intensive care staffing. There has also been what the report calls an "excellent response from volunteers".


The impact of coronavirus has necessitated massive increases in bed capacity and widespread reorganisation of services in the NHS across the UK, and many of these changes are likely to be long term. In Gwent, hundreds of extra beds have been opened or are ready to open, with critical care capacity increased significantly.

Hence the need for more key staff - and the situation is exacerbated by higher than usual absence rates, for reasons such as medical exclusion, coronavirus- and non coronavirus-related sickness, and stress-related sickness.

Early in April, 16.9 per cent of Gwent health board staff, or around one-in-six, were absent. Though this had fallen to around 11.4 per cent by early May, the latter remains around double the normal rate for the time of year.

More than 1,200 staff were absent at one stage due to medical exclusion - self-isolation or shielding - but around 900 have now been able to return to work with support from the health board's workforce team.

Extensive deployment of new recruits and redeployment of existing staff continues, and has included deploying registered nurses to support the 111 advice and information service, and supporting staff categorised as vulnerable, for instance due to pregnancy, or health conditions which mean they must self-isolate or shield, or cannot work in a clinical setting.

Hundreds of registered nurses have received clinical skills training so they can be deployed to front line services, and this includes those who are returning to nursing, and nurses returning to ward working.