05th February 2014

The first independent report exploring the business and skills needs of SME businesses across the Welsh health sector has been published today (5th February 2014) by Skills for Health, as part of the Sector Priorities Fund Pilot (SPFP) programme.  Despite growth in the sector, the research concludes that support is not accessible or visible to SME healthcare businesses, with those in the rural areas of Wales worst affected.

The report, "Developing high performance SME businesses in the Welsh health sector: the targeting of business and learning support" is based on in-depth qualitative and quantitative research amongst Welsh healthcare businesses.  The document explores the current attitudes, performance and skills development of SMEs in Wales, as well as outlining potential "gaps" in support and training.  The report concludes that if more support were available, further growth would be accelerated in the sector.

Key findings from the report, focused on a group identified as "aspiring businesses" include:

  • 60% of aspiring SMEs saw growth in the last year, with 85% looking for further growth
  • 43% were confident and 53% were "fairly confident" about the future of their business
  • SMEs in urban locations were typically more growth orientated and forward thinking. 64% of aspiring SMEs were in urban locations
  • Aspiring SMEs in rural locations were not performing as well or as confident as those in urban regions
  • Where motivated SMEs existed in rural locations, there was a distinct perceived lack of training and support

This news comes in the wake of the 10 year plan for a more highly skilled Wales unveiled last week by Deputy Minister for Skills and Technology, Ken Skates.   It is hoped that the findings of this report will help to inform the Welsh Government and shape the provision of healthcare in the country in the future.

The importance of Small and Medium Sized Enterprises (SMEs) to the economy is widely acknowledged and effective training and development has also proven to be key to the development of SMEs. For the first time, this report seeks to explore the skills needs of these SME businesses that provide vital health services to the community in Wales.  The report not only highlighted that businesses are unified by their core aim to provide high quality patient care, but also shows evidence that many SMEs in Wales are willing to come together to develop shared responses to their business and learning development needs. In fact, 94% of respondents would be keen to take part in "collective action", working together to improve skills and business performance in the SME sector. 

This new report from Skills for Health is available to review at www.skillsforhealth.org.uk, alongside two further reviews of healthcare in Wales:

Anne Clarke, Director for Wales, Skills for Health comments "This report provides a valuable insight into three core groups of businesses in the SME Welsh health sector and gives us a better understanding of their needs in terms of skills training and support.  The picture the research paints of this part of the health sector is very positive and it is heartening to see that all areas of the sector are united in a common concern for patient welfare, quality of patient care and providing patient choice.  However, the report does highlight differences between the outlook, performance and confidence of SME healthcare providers in rural and urban locations in Wales – and outlines a "gap" in support that needs further consideration."

Christina Pond, Director of Products and Services adds; "It's very important to generate a strong evidence base and in-depth Labour Market Intelligence (LMI) to better understand the requirements of health care employers when creating workforce development solutions, and to inform the planning and funding decisions of Government, education commissioners and learning  providers. While this reports does of course highlight the many positive developments in skills and training in the Welsh healthcare workforce , the findings also outline some innovative ways in which support could be provided to further enhance workforce development."