Welsh NHS is braced for win­ter surge in de­mand

Western Mail - - NEWS - Mar­cus Hughes Re­porter mar­cus.hughes@waleson­line.co.uk

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

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