Welsh NHS is braced for winter surge in demand
WINTER resilience plans are in place to deal with the anticipated seasonal surge in demand for NHS services, the Welsh Government has said.
Increased bed capacity and the strengthening of emergency ambulance services are among the measures aimed at easing pressure on GP surgeries and A&E departments, Health Secretary Vaughan Gething has announced.
Mr Gething said: “Winter is always a challenging time for our health and social care services and hard-working staff here in Wales, as it is across the UK.
“As last year, we will see the strengthening of emergency ambulatory care services to enable patients with specific conditions to be treated without needing to stay in hospital overnight wherever possible.”
He added that other actions included strengthening seven-day working, extending working hours, increasing senior decision-making at the hospital front door, and additional support for out-of-hours services and care homes.
According to latest figures, more patients are waiting longer for vital operations, while the number of people spending unacceptably lengthy spells in A&E is also on the increase.
If this trend continues into winter, experts have warned that a reduction in bed capacity and staff shortages could lead to operations being cancelled and patient care being compromised.
Speaking last month Tina Donnelly, director of the Royal College of Nursing in Wales, said: “The nursing workforce will be seeing more patients and will be facing significantly increasing pressures which not only affect morale, but also their own health and wellbeing.”
As part of its package of measures the government will also aim to improve the use of social workers in hospitals and make greater use of pharmacy support.
NHS Wales chief executive Dr Andrew Goodall also called on people to make informed decisions on where to get treatment if they are unwell to help ease pressure on emergency departments.
“Making the right choice of which services and treatments will save you time and make sure you and your family get the right care quickly,” Dr Goodall said. “I know NHS staff will be working hard this winter. Choose well to help them help you.”
Dr Goodall also launched a new initiative, My Winter Health Plan, aimed at helping people with longterm physical or mental health conditions provide vital information for visiting health professionals to allow more people to be treated at home.
He said: “The aim of My Winter Health Plan is to provide people with chronic conditions, or their carers, with a form that they can display on their fridge or in an easy-to-see part of their home.
“If they then receive a home visit in an emergency from a health and care professional, family member or neighbour, that person will have useful key information to help them make a more informed decision on what action to take. It is anticipated that this will help avoid unnecessary journeys to hospital.”
Dr Goodall added: “Community pharmacists can advise you and your family on minor ailments, coughs or colds. They can offer expert advice, over-the-counter medicines and prescriptions and, if needed, advise whether you need to see your GP.
“By making this vital choice you can often be seen and treated more quickly, saving you time and freeing up GPs and A&E departments for those who really need them.”
For non-emergency advice patients can contact NHS Direct Wales on 0845 46 47 or go to www. nhsdirect.wales.nhs.uk to check their symptoms.
> Ambulances queueing outside the University Hospital of Wales in Cardiff last month