NHS Wales chief warns they are bracing themselves for ‘one of the hardest winters we have ever faced’
NHS Wales chief executive Andrew Goodall has warned the dual challenge of the Covid pandemic and other respiratory viruses will make this winter “one of the hardest we have ever faced”.
He was speaking as he revealed a NHS Wales Health and Social Care Winter Plan which includes an extra £42m funding for social care, some of which will be used to help ease the pressure on hospital beds.
The social care investment will be used to improve hospital patient discharges, expand community services and reduce hospital re-admissions among the frail and vulnerable in an effort to ease pressures on bed capacity, he said.
NHS Wales Chief Executive Andrew Goodall said: “We know this winter will be one of the hardest periods we have ever faced, as we face the twin challenges of the pandemic and respiratory viruses, but our Winter Plan will ensure essential services keep running
“Our services need to be agile and able to respond to those who need hospital care when their condition worsens, as well as providing support as close to home as possible to reduce their need to attend hospital to receive care.”
Andrew Goodall added that services needed to remain ready to respond to rapidly changing circumstances, as well as minimising time spent in hospital for those receiving care and supporting people to return home to continue their recovery.
His key priorities in the Winter Plan include:
- Protecting people from Covid-19 through the vaccination programme,
- Keeping people well during higher levels of influenza and seasonal respiratory viruses,
- Maintaining the resilience of health and social care services,
- Responding to the mental health impact of the pandemic,
- Ensuring vulnerable groups have access to the treatment they require,
- Supporting the health and wellbeing of staff who have worked tirelessly during the pandemic
- Working with health and social care organisations to manage pressures across the system.
Health Minister Eluned Morgan said that because of these pressures it was unlikely the Welsh Government would be able to tackle long waiting times until winter was over.
“Winter is always a challenging period and the demands on our health and social care system have never been greater than this pandemic period,” she said.
“Our NHS will continue to deliver essential services and is doing everything it can to ensure planned care continues through this busy period. Everyone can play their part too by getting their Covid and flu jabs and thinking about the different options for getting the care they need.
“I am also announcing £42m of social care funding today. The pandemic has put the social care system under great strain and we believe investing in allowing people to access the right care at home will prevent unnecessary hospital admissions, speed up patient discharges and create much-needed additional bed capacity in our hospitals.
“With this plan and additional funding we can reduce disruption to planned care. However, with the pressures on the system I don’t expect us to make real inroads into waiting times until the spring.
“But I am determined to tackle this issue and am very aware of what a difficult time it has been for those who have been waiting a long time for treatment. Health Boards will continue to support those who are waiting for treatment.”