Wales politics

Welsh NHS plan to cope with extra winter pressures announced

Accident and emergency in Bangor

Cutting hospital admissions and discharging patients more quickly are among Welsh NHS plans to cope with higher demand over the winter.

NHS Wales chief executive Dr Andrew Goodall urged people to use emergency care only for life-threatening conditions needing immediate attention.

Last winter, A&E pressures led a senior nurse to compare them to a war zone.

Dr Goodall said health bodies and councils had worked on plans, with some health boards recruiting extra staff.

The new winter plans include:

  • Identifying how extra hospital beds can be made available to respond to any surge in demand
  • Using minor injury units and working with GPs and out-of-hours services to reduce hospital admissions
  • Better support for people at home to help them be discharged from hospital as early as possible
  • Better coverage by health services at weekends and evenings
Image caption Dr Goodall said everyone can help the NHS cope with winter pressures

"The health service maintains and reviews plans constantly throughout the year but we all know winter can bring additional pressures," Dr Goodall said.

"Our health boards, councils and the ambulance service have developed integrated winter plans to prepare for winter, particularly during peaks in pressure."

But he stressed that many illnesses could be treated at home with "over-the-counter medicines and plenty of rest".

"When your injury or illness can't be managed at home, your GP practice, NHS Direct Wales, local pharmacy, optician or dentist can help.

"A&E is for serious, life-threatening conditions that need immediate medical attention," Dr Goodall added.

But Conservative Shadow Health Minister Darren Millar warned a better NHS performance was "unlikely" without Labour ministers addressing some "crippling problems".

"The reality is that GP out-of-hours services are in crisis in some parts of Wales, waiting times are too long and the four hour A and E target hasn't been met in six years," he said.

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