£800m package announced to help Welsh NHS deal with winter pressures and potential coronavirus second wave

The new funding will go towards helping Wales' NHS with things like testing, PPE and hospital capacity. Credit: PA Images

Welsh Government have announced a "stabilisation package" worth £800 million to help the NHS cope with the impact of coronavirus.

The fund will support the Welsh NHS in preparing for the anticipated pressures that winter will bring. This season usually creates extra challenges for the NHS but responding to a potential second wave of coronavirus would add another strain on the service.

The money will be spent on things like creating a 'buffer' supply of PPE and increasing the scale of the winter flu vaccine programme.

Finance Minister, Rebecca Evans MS, said she is "confident" that this package will give the NHS "the stability it needs to respond to the pandemic".

Part of the money will go towards creating a 'buffer' in supply of PPE for those who work in health care and in social care. Credit: PA Images

Welsh Government said the money will be used to secure an appropriate level of PPE for those in health care and in social care. At the beginning of the pandemic, there were concerns over adequate supplies of the protective gear and access to appropriate PPE.

Part of this money should be used to ensure there is "an appropriate 'buffer'" of PPE available to respond to any second wave.

Wales' Chief Medical Officer says we could see a surge of cases in the Autumn and then a bigger peak in the winter months.

"It's hard to predict exactly what could happen, we could see a surge in the autumn and then a bigger peak in the winter and that's the most likely scenario that we're planning for," he told BBC Radio Wales."

Dr Frank Atherton is monitoring a second wave of cases in Wales. Credit: Welsh Government

"But really we just have to wait and see, and watch very carefully. The really important thing here is to identify cases that are coming up, to make sure that clusters that are happening in parts of Wales, as we've seen recently up in Wrexham for example, are identified through our track, trace and protect programme, and that we're able to put in place the measures to really stamp on those, to stamp them down, so they don't become widespread community transmission. That's really what we're trying to avoid."

The extra funding will also help deliver Wales’ largest ever flu campaign, which aims to get more people vaccinated this year in preparation for winter.

Improved turnaround times for coronavirus tests and help for health boards with hospital capacity, including access to field hospitals, are also where Welsh Government said the money will be targeted.

Health Minister, Vaughan Gething MS, said that while the NHS prepares "rigorously" every year for winter pressures, this money will help deal with what could be a winter "unlike any other" ahead of us.

Finance Minister, Rebecca Evans MS, added that she is "confident that today’s announcement will provide our NHS with the stability it needs to respond to the pandemic".

Welsh Government said the total amount of funding for Wales' NHS in Covid-19 support is now more than £1.3 billion.

There are ways to potentially treat those who test positive for coronavirus and suffer more sever symptoms. Credit: PA Images

Welsh representatives from the British Medical Association (BMA) said the funding will help deal with the additional pressures that lie ahead but people still need to remember that they have a part to play in helping too.

Dr David Bailey, Chair of the British Medical Association’s Welsh Council, said: "As we come to Autumn and Winter the Welsh NHS will come under additional strain and pressure. This funding will be crucial in making sure that we have enough PPE to keep doctors and medical staff safe so they can stay in work and continue to help patients."

"There is still a significant backlog in the Welsh NHS as many of the surgeries and consultations that were paused have not yet restarted.

"We therefore need to remain vigilant about a second wave of the virus while at the same time using some of this new investment to build extra capacity to help catch up with those paused appointments so we can minimise the ongoing impact to people’s health.” 

While the number of people dying from Covid-19 has dropped significantly, we are not at the end of this pandemic.

Dr David Bailey, Chair of the BMA's Welsh Council
Vaughan Gething MS said that this money will help deal with what could be a winter "unlike any other" ahead of us. Credit: PA Images

Dr Phil White, Chair of the BMA’s Welsh GP Committee, pointed out how essential the flu jab will be this year and how GPs will need that "extra support" to deliver it to an increased amount of patients.

He also said: "However, no matter how much funding is made available, everyone needs to continue to play their part in keeping us all safe by maintaining social distancing, washing their hands regularly, and wearing face coverings when close to other people."