NHS Wales Faced Unprecedented Pressure Last Winter, Review Says

In Family, Industry News, Protection by Raina Dhillon

Last winter, health and social services in Wales faced a “perfect storm of pressures”, which resulted in cancelled operations, huge ambulance queues and long waits for emergency services, according to a review commissioned by the Welsh government and NHS Wales.

Between December 2017 and March 2018, the entire health and social care system experienced unprecedented pressure. As a result, patients faced long delays being admitted to hospital and ambulances were left sat outside A&E departments, leaving people who had called for one stranded as they waited.

Morale among members of the Welsh Ambulance Service was severely dented, while A&E departments were like battlefields, compromising patient safety. Even the Welsh Cabinet Secretary for Health and Social Services, Vaughan Gething, said the level of demand for health and social services was surprising, with pressures surmounting expectations.

Blizzards; staff shortages; not enough hospital beds; a lack of GPs working out of hours; and the worst flu outbreak since 2009 compounded to create an “extremely challenging period” for the Welsh NHS.

The review, which managers, doctors, patients and care providers contributed to, also outlines recommendations for improvements.

More Funding Announced

An additional £20m package has been allocated by Gething to the NHS in Wales for this coming winter. The package – which comprises £16m for local health boards to help them deliver the actions featured in their winter delivery plans and £4m for nationally-agreed winter priorities – will hopefully go some way to ensuring that this winter isn’t as difficult as the last.

The funding is designed to improve five key areas:

  • Extending GP access into evenings and weekends, as well as bank holidays in some areas, to help people access care closer to home.
  • Supporting older people who have fallen and are not injured to remain in their homes or care homes.
  • Increasing the number of paramedics and nurses in ambulance clinical contact centres to provide advice over the phone and help prevent unnecessary journeys to hospital.
  • Increasing capacity in Emergency Departments to support patient flow and to help resettle older, frail people at home following assessment in the department.
  • Spreading good practice across Wales from an award winning Welsh Ambulance Service pilot to use highly skilled paramedics to help keep people at home.

Despite the situation last year and the recommendations outlined by the review, it’s not all bad news for NHS Wales. In fact, better planning last winter, which was the busiest on record, prevented an already difficult situation escalating into something far worse.

Vaughan Gething said: “It’s testament to our excellent staff across the NHS, social services and third sector at every level, that the vast majority of patients received timely and high quality care. There’s always more that can be done to ensure that the Welsh NHS and local authorities are ready for whatever winter brings. Considering staff well-being is a part of that.

While the NHS in Wales faced unprecedented pressure last year, the fact it managed to cope and still provide a service is testament to the incredible individuals who work within it. Hopefully, the extra funding this year will go some way towards helping and ensure patients get the help and support they need at the bleakest time of the year.

I have over 15 years client facing experience in the Employee Benefits industry having worked for Mercer HR Consulting and The Willis Group in London. Bringing my expertise to mid and large corporate clients, I joined Premier Choice Healthcare in December 2015, with the aim of advising and developing a varied Corporate client portfolio.