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More people accessing emergency care services and avoiding hospital admission, says Welsh Govt

02 May 2023 3 minute read
Image: Welsh Government

The Welsh Government has announced that a programme to reduce pressure on urgent and emergency care in Wales has allowed thousands of people a month to access care away from Emergency Departments.

One year on from the launch of the Welsh Government’s Six Goals for Urgent and Emergency Care (‘Six Goals’) Programme, the latest NHS data shows that every month 10,000 people are accessing Urgent Primary Care Centres.

The data also found that 4,500 patients are being seen in same day emergency care services, and around 60,000 are using the 111 service for urgent advice.

Supported by £25 million of annual funding, the programme was launched in April 2022 and the Welsh Government say it has made early progress over the last twelve months.

Emergency Departments in Wales struggled to cope under immense pressures during the winter and Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board declared a critical incident in December following an increase in patients requiring emergency care.

Hospitals across the health board saw a lack of available beds and significant staffing shortages which fuelled extremely long waits for patients to be seen – particularly in emergency departments.

Similar pressures were experienced in other Welsh Health Boards along with English Trusts.

Mental health

The scheme’s priorities in year one included, increasing access to urgent care services to reduce pressure on in-hours GP and Emergency Departments.

13 Urgent Primary Care Centres have been established across Wales and are now seeing around 10,000 people every month, without needing a traditional GP appointment or presentation at an Emergency Department.

12 Same Day Emergency Care services are also operating in Wales treating 4,500 every month.

NHS data has shown that around 75% of patients accessing these services are returning home without the need for hospital admission.

A new NHS 111 Wales mental health crisis pathway has also been introduced to help people avoid the need to access an urgent or emergency care service.

The Welsh Government say that 999 video consultation technology has enabled remote clinical assessment to take place.

Year two of the programme will focus on supporting Health Boards to deliver seven-day services and increase out of hours urgent primary care capacity as part of a move to a 24/7 urgent care model.

The Minister for Health and Social Care, Eluned Morgan said: “We’ve seen record demand on our emergency and urgent care system in Wales this winter.

“The latest data show the number of ambulance red calls were 93% higher in March 2023 than in March 2019. Without our Six Goals programme and our delivery of more than 600 extra community beds things could have been much worse this winter.

“Despite this additional pressure, performance at major emergency departments in Wales has bettered English performance for the last seven months and has remained stable in contrast to all other parts of the UK.

“Since the launch of the Six Goals for Urgent and Emergency Care programme we have seen real progress in signposting people to the right services for their needs, reducing transport of patients by ambulance to hospital and helping more people access urgent care in their local communities.

“NHS data also show a reduction in the numbers of people spending longer periods in hospital beds which should support better outcomes.

“There is no silver bullet in overcoming some of the challenges and pressures faced by urgent and emergency care services across the UK and western Europe.

“But I expect this progress to continue and for plans to have greater impact on patient outcomes and experiences across the system as the programme moves into its second year.”

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