Posted: Thu 7th Oct 2021

Calls made for Ministers to publish plans to tackle pressures facing NHS in Wales this winter

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales
This article is old - Published: Thursday, Oct 7th, 2021

Calls have been made for the Welsh Government to publish its plan on it will address the pressures facing the health service this winter.

It comes amid concern that the NHS, which is already experiencing increased demand due to coronavirus and a backlog of routine operations and appointments, will face additional strain over the coming months.

There are also fears that illnesses like flu and RSV (Respiratory syncytial virus) – which were not in circulation last year due coronavirus restrictions reducing the spread – could cause additional pressure on the health service.

A winter pressures plan is set to be released by the Welsh Government on the week beginning October 18.

However speaking during a debate yesterday Plaid Cymru’s health spokesperson Rhun ap Iorwerth MS said the Welsh Government “can’t hide from the challenge this winter” and that “significant and innovative ideas” are needed.

He outlined a five point programme from the party which “follows the journey of the patient through health and care services.”

This includes preventative measures and signposting people to the right source of care, increasing primary care provision by using more virtual services or bringing former GPs out of retirement for the winter, strengthening diagnostic and referral work and the safeguarding of cancer services, increasing capacity and ensuring patient flow through the health system and on to social care.

Rhun ap Iorwerth MS said: “With winter approaching, indeed the feeling that winter pressures are here already, and yet we haven’t seen a plan from the Welsh Government for the winter this year.

“They managed to publish it in September of last year, in a very timely way, after the exceptionally challenging months during the pandemic.

“The truth is that patients need the confidence that a plan is in place and the staff need to know that steps are in place to at least try to shoulder some of the pressures on their behalf over the winter.

“No matter how often we pay tributes to the staff, I will say the words once again: for their commitment, their sacrifice, and their work over the past period, words aren’t enough.

“We can’t hide from the challenge this winter. We’ll need significant resources, but we will need innovative ideas too.”

His concerns were echoed by Conservative Shadow Health Minister, Russell George, who said: “Tragically, last winter we saw people die because of ward-to-ward transmission of COVID-19 in places that should be safe and secure for patients, so we can’t afford to allow this to happen again, as it did last year.

“We know that waiting lists are still very high: one in four are still waiting for over a year for treatment and, in comparison, in England that figure is one in 16.

“So, Welsh patients who have been waiting for more than a year cannot afford to wait any longer for essential treatment, because we know the reasons for that.”

Welsh Labour MS John Griffiths called for improved access to primary care, stating that he has been contacted by residents in his constituency are concerned about being able to book a GP appointment.

He said: Some people actually want to use the new technologies to access services, but there are some that want those face-to-face services, and, when they’re appropriate, obviously they need to be delivered.

“So, I would be grateful for some responses from the Welsh Government to those particular issues.”

Welsh Conservative MS Altaf Hussain MS called for the Welsh Government needs to prepare the health service for a potential increase in demand on the health service caused by a resurgence of flu.

He argued that “the risk of a greater number of people becoming ill this year, and with a greater intensity, will be somewhat higher than in previous years, and needs to be planned for.”

Health Minister Eluned Morgan confirmed that a winter pressure plan will be released within the next fortnight which will outline the priorities and response to “expected and exceptional winter pressures”.

Ms Morgan said: “These priorities are already well known, and some are already being delivered at a local, regional and national level, with a focus on reducing the risk of people needing hospital treatment and keeping people safe and well.

“I’m pleased to say that many of the points that certainly Rhun ap Iorwerth talked about in terms of the need to look at prevention, making sure that we direct people to the right places—a lot of that is already happening.

“These priorities will be supported by our investment of £140 million for recovery and £48 million for social care. I would like to take this opportunity to thank from the bottom of my heart the health and social care staff in all parts of Wales.

“They have worked tirelessly, with commitment and compassion, to provide services throughout the pandemic. Safeguarding the health and well-being of our staff is one of our major priorities this winter.

“I look forward to providing detailed information when we publish our winter plan soon.”

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