Winter pressures in the Welsh NHS

So what kind of state is the Welsh NHS in as we head into winter?

The Health Secretary Vaughan Gething has been telling assembly members about his plans.

It includes the small matter of an extra £50m to cope, more decision-makers on the weekend and social workers in hospitals to deal with the perennial and fundamental problem of delayed transfers of care, or what Vaughan Gething calls the "big system challenge" of helping to get people out of hospital.

He claims it won't be easy or perfect but the NHS is better prepared than it was last year, and that, barring something exceptional, the doors would remain open, unlike in England where a number of casualty departments were forced to close temporarily last winter.

Anyone listening to the health secretary's statement would have been left in no doubt as to the scale of the pressure.

Upbeat assessment

The number of ambulances arriving in A and E departments last January was on average 22% higher than a year earlier.

The Welsh Conservative health spokeswoman Angela Burns described it as an "upbeat assessment" that had not been reflected by the clinicians who had given evidence to the assembly's health committee.

She said she found it difficult to swallow, particularly in the light of reduced number beds and district nurses.

His response was that overall, the trend on delayed transfers of care has been down, even though it rose at the height of the last winter pressure, and that a rise in bed capacity this winter would add resilience.

Vaughan Gething said: "It would be a brave, if not a foolish, person in my position who said they were utterly satisfied with where we are.

"We recognise that we have an improved picture in planning and preparing for winter."

Time will tell.