This winter will be 'one of the hardest we've ever faced', says NHS Wales boss

NHS Wales' Chief Executive, Andrew Goodall has warned that the dual challenge of the Covid pandemic and other respiratory viruses will make this winter "one of the hardest we have ever faced".

The Health and Social Care Winter Plan was published on Thursday 21 October where Dr Goodall vowed to "keep essential services running" throughout the winter months.

It was announced that there will be an extra £42 million funding for social care, which will be used to improve hospital patient discharges, expand community services and reduce hospital re-admissions in an effort to ease pressures on bed capacity.

This will be on top of £248m already announced for the NHS Covid recovery fund.

The Winter Plan will help ensure emergency care is able to cope and minimise disruption to planned care.

Its key priorities include protecting people from Covid-19, keeping people safe during higher levels of influenza, responding to the mental health impact of the pandemic, supporting the health and wellbeing of NHS staff and working with health and social care organisations to manage winter pressures across the system.

To support patients with urgent clinical needs, central recovery funds for cancer, ophthalmology and dermatology have also been established. Health Boards across Wales will have additional funding to support this.

A further £25 million is also being invested in supporting the transformation of urgent and emergency care services to deliver the right care in the right place.

NHS Wales Chief Executive Andrew Goodall said: "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 also announced on Thursday that the Welsh Government will invest a further £42 million in social care funding.

She did however warn that the government doesn't expect to see much improvement in waiting times until the spring.

Health Minister, Eluned Morgan has warned the government doesn't expect to see much improvement in waiting times until the spring. Credit: PA

She said: "I am also announcing £42m of social care funding today. The pandemic has put the social care system under great strain and we believe investing in allowing people to access the right care at home will prevent unnecessary hospital admissions, speed up patient discharges and create much-needed additional bed capacity in our hospitals.

"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."

The Health Minister also expressed her concerns about the winter challenges facing the NHS and encouraged people to play their part by getting vaccinated. She added: "Winter is always a challenging period and the demands on our health and social care system have never been greater than this pandemic period.

"Our NHS will continue to deliver essential services and is doing everything it can to ensure planned care continues through this busy period. Everyone can play their part too by getting their Covid and flu jabs and thinking about the different options for getting the care they need."