NHS Wales Publishes Winter Plan

Nicky Broyd

October 21, 2021

"We are bracing ourselves for one of the hardest winters we have ever faced," said NHS Wales Chief Executive Andrew Goodall, announcing his winter plan. However, he committed to keeping essential services running.

The plan involves extra funding for social care on top of previously announced COVID funding.

Priorities include:

  • Maintaining health and social care services resilience

  • Promoting the COVID-19 vaccination programme

  • Protecting people from flu and seasonal respiratory viruses

  • Responding to pandemic mental health impacts

  • Ensuring treatment for vulnerable groups

  • Supporting staff wellbeing

  • Managing health and care system pressures

Hard Winter

Mr Goodall said in a statement: "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."

Health Minister Eluned Morgan added: "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."

Performance

The plan was welcomed by the Royal College of Emergency Medicine (RCEM) as 4-hour A&E performance worsened for the sixth consecutive month.

Dr Suresh Pillai, RCEM Wales vice president, said: "The situation is unsustainable. Emergency departments continue to be under severe strain, and we know these pressures are not limited to emergency departments but are increasing across the whole system."

Dr Pillai added that the plan "rightly focusses on: protecting people from COVID; acknowledging the threat of seasonal viruses; prioritising patient safety; and the importance of social care services.

"The plan also sets out the priorities for urgent and emergency care over the winter period. Patients should always attend the emergency department when they need emergency care. But we welcome the Government’s plan to invest in and maximise the use of alternative health pathways that could alleviate the pressures facing Emergency Departments."

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