‘Winter Protection Plan’ for Wales to be published next month for ‘challenging’ period ahead
Wales’ health minister has warned that the “most challenging of times” could be on their way this winter as the NHS deals with a potential increase in coronavirus cases and flu.
However a ‘Winter Protection Plan’ on how the health and social services will be supported through any additional pressures over the coming months will not be published until next month.
Already an £800 million “stabilisation package” to help the NHS in Wales continue to respond to and recover from the impact of the coronavirus crisis.
Plans for the new funding include a “strategic approach” to the procurement of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for both the health and social care sectors, so that an appropriate buffer of supplies can be established to respond to any second wave of infections.
This is alongside Wales’ “biggest ever” flu vaccination campaign and ensuring their is sufficient capacity available in hospitals.
Last month Health Minister Vaughan Gething spoke of his concern that the NHS in Wales could face an “extraordinary” winter with the risk of a second spike of coronavirus, a flu outbreak, winter pressures and the backlog of appointments and operations which were put on hold at the start of the pandemic.
Mr Gething says The Winter Protection Plan will “will build on the four harms approach” used to underpin existing planning arrangements with health and social care to date. These include:-
- Harm from COVID-19 itself
- Harm from overwhelmed NHS and social care system
- Harm from reduction in non COVID-19 activity
- Harm from wider societal actions/ lockdown
In a written statement, Mr Gething said: “This plan will address health and social care and also link in with our wider partners in the third and independent sector, as we all work collectively to ensure we can manage the challenges ahead.
“The approach will provide us with greater certainty on a number of critical areas. We need to have assurance on the future demand our health and social care services will face.
“Modelling and the advice that the government continues to receive from our Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) will play a significant part in that. Likewise it is essential that there are appropriate and adequate supplies of PPE throughout the winter months.
“Patients need to receive appropriate care both in the community and in hospital, if that is the appropriate place for them. Patients should expect to receive care if they fall ill with COVID-19 but also be supported for other conditions, especially those that are urgent and life threatening.
“The health and social care sector must remain open for everyone and the Winter Protection Plan will ensure that we are working together to achieve this and that all our essential services are flexible and agile to meet those needs.
“We recognise how hard our health and social care staff, and other key workers have worked over the last few months. The Winter Protection Plan will look to provide reassurance around our workforce and greater resilience over the winter.
“We will draw on the work that has already been undertaken on testing, with the launch of the Test, Trace and Protect Strategy for Wales; as well as the need to support an expanded and comprehensive flu vaccination campaign this autumn.
He added: “Much has been learnt and we are living and working in an environment many are calling the ‘new normal’ “.
“We have taken opportunities to make better use of resources and improve services for patients e.g. virtual consultations and treatment pathways.
“The Winter Protection Plan will build on those gains and looks to drive further innovation across health and social care sector and into community resilience as well to ensure that “Together we’ll keep Wales safe”.
However news that the plan will be published next month has been criticised by Welsh Conservative Shadow Health and Social Services Minister, Andrew Davies MS, who said that frontline staff in Wales need a “clear plan” as soon as possible.
Mr Davies said: “I appreciate the demands on government have been substantial in the response to coronavirus but with winter just around the corner this delay from Labour’s health minister is concerning.
“It’s vital critical pathways resume and that all avenues are explored by the Welsh Labour-led Government to create capacity within our NHS to handle the massive backlog which has built up through the suspension of services.
“People are worried and yet we are still waiting on key detail when it comes to flu vaccines, how backlogs will be managed and where people should go if they’re unable to get access to A&E, or how our GPs cope with any influx of people that are turned away.
“Our fantastic frontline staff in the Welsh NHS need a clear plan and it’s imperative this leadership is offered as quickly as possible by Vaughan Gething and the Welsh Labour-led Government.”
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