The health service in Wales is in “the best position possible’ to cope with winter demand, according to the Welsh Government, with additional funding and a number of new schemes to help ease the pressure on the health professionals providing vital services.
Health Secretary Vaughan Gething announced an extra £50m in August to reduce waiting times in areas such as pre-arranged surgery, diagnostics and specialist therapies, and has said he will pump more money into services put under “significant” pressure this winter if needed. As the NHS gears up for the seasonal peaks in demand, the additional funding is available in Welsh Government reserves – although the Conservatives say that better planning is required, as well as the potential extra money.
Mr Gething said: “It would be a foolish health minister or any member of the government who said that there is absolutely no room for manoeuvre, if there is significant additional pressure across public services that we won’t look to do something about it. But we think we’re in the best position possible, having injected that extra money to improve performance already, having had a whole system approach to health and care.”
In Wales this winter, a number of schemes are being run to encourage people to use the NHS in the right way, including the Choose Well campaign. This helps people decide whether they can look after themselves at home, need to use local services or should go to A&E. Its website has handy traffic light colour coding and users can also follow tips and advice on Twitter @choosewellwales.
Patients are being encouraged to visit NHS Direct Wales to check symptoms and find local services, as well as accessing a range of helpful guides on health and wellbeing. The new NHS Direct Wales 111 number has now replaced 0845 46 47 in many parts of Wales and continues to be rolled out across the whole nation.
My Winter Health Plan, a new initiative to help those with long term conditions, is part of Choose Well and will allow patients to more easily share information with healthcare professionals making a home visit. The plan will enable them to discuss their condition, the support they receive and any advice given, as well as recording their key health and care support contact details.
The plan is going out to 10,000 people – mainly with chronic conditions and living in their own homes – and will help professionals to quickly access medication details and what type of help they might need. The plan can also be taken to a minor injuries unit or A&E in order to outline regular care needs and speed up the process.
NHS Wales chief executive Dr Andrew Goodall 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.
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. I know NHS staff will be working hard this winter. Choose well to help them help you.”
Live A&E waiting times are also to be rolled out across Wales following the trial of an app in north Wales. The app allows people to see how busy emergency and minor injuries departments are, with the aim of enabling them to make decisions that won’t overload the system unnecessarily.