A recruitment crisis ahead?

Our last blog welcomed the call in Senedd for a ‘workforce recruitment and retention plan for cancer specialists.’ https://colocate-velindre.co.uk/483-2/

But the Board scrutinising cancer research in Wales has pointed out a major threat to Welsh recruitment and retention. It’s the proposed New Velindre Cancer Centre itself.

Professor Neil Burnet’s letter came from the heart. He himself formerly worked at Velindre. Now he’s Chair to the Board of seven world-class professors monitoring cancer research quality throughout Wales. He reaffirmed in September his Board’s unanimous message to the Welsh research community:

‘The decision to re-site Velindre separately [from a general hospital] will also have implications for staff recruitment at both junior and senior levels. This in turn will have a knock-on effect on research…There will be loss of prestige and damage to the strong Velindre ‘brand’ and to the standing of Cardiff and Wales in the wider cancer care and research communities.’ https://colocate-velindre.co.uk/eminent-clinical-reviewers-on-velindres-plans/

New Velindre – a national issue.

The words ‘and Wales’ are not put in there for show. They imply that right across Wales recruitment and retention in cancer faces an uphill struggle as long as government refuses to revisit its already out-of-date cancer centre programme. Everywhere NHS Wales will find it difficult, if not impossible, to overcome the deadweight of what’s proposed for Velindre. The Welsh, UK and global trend today overwhelmingly favours co-location of any new cancer centre with an acute general hospital. It’s the only pathway to a world-class reputation as a cancer centre .

Clinging to bygone practice holds no appeal for aspiring up-to-date cancer clinicians. The best and brightest will gravitate to a buzzing, university research hub a stone’s throw from the main cancer centre. That way it’s possible to interact and collaborate with a researching community at an acute hospital, along with colleagues from other specialities. This in turn means they can forge and lead the most joined-up care possible for patients.

Short-changing cancer patients, clinicians taxpayers, and donors?

Government refusal to address such stubborn facts on recruitment exposes lack of ambition, just as noted in Senedd last week. The government’s New Velindre project attracts less than glowing descriptions even from government itself: ‘a compromise’ (former health minister BBC March 19 2021) merely a ‘reasonable’ way forward (The Nuffield Advice) ‘a missed opportunity’ (Professor Burnet and his Board).

Cancer patients and their families surely deserve a lot, lot better than this from a brand new centre already fast soaking up Welsh-wide cancer funding before there’s even a design. It seems the ‘future generations’ have already been shunted into the sidings. This Covid generation justly feels cheated of so much. But now it will have to foot the staggering £562m + bill for a 1960’s mainly outpatients unit. Truly a ‘blast from the past’ and a very cold one at that.  It’s no way to run a recruitment and retention drive is it?