Coronavirus in Wales: NHS gets £800m to prepare for second wave

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Image caption,
Wales came within days of running out of PPE at one stage in the pandemic

An £800m fund to prepare the Welsh NHS for a possible second coronavirus wave has been announced by ministers.

A large portion of the money will be used to boost supplies of personal protective equipment (PPE).

The cash will also be used to retain some field hospitals and £11.7m will go to fund Wales' biggest flu campaign.

Finance Minister Rebecca Evans said she was confident the announcement would give the NHS the "stability it needs" to respond to the pandemic.

The Conservatives said the money was needed to "increase access to vital health provision which has been closed or greatly reduced since the start of the Covid-19 outbreak".

Plaid Cymru warned that "good management" was needed as well as money.

PA Media
How many PPE items have been issued in Wales?

Between 9 March and 26 July 2020

  • 66.6msurgical masks

  • 45.6maprons

  • 2.1mface visors

  • 119.4mgloves

  • 180,894hand sanitisers

  • 1.12mgowns

Source: NHS Wales Shared Services Partnership

The Welsh Government said access would continue to expand and it had now provided more than £1.3bn of Covid-19 support to NHS organisations.

"We understand the growing financial pressures and challenges being faced across the public sector and we are doing all we can to alleviate these," Ms Evans said, announcing what ministers are calling an NHS "stabilisation package".

"We are also continuing to work with local authorities to understand the considerable pressures they are facing and their priorities so that we can provide them with further support."

Welsh Tory health spokesman Andrew RT Davies said that without the UK Conservative government's "historic funding packages today's announcement would not have been possible".

"This money needs to increase access to vital health provision which has been closed or greatly reduced since the start of the Covid-19 outbreak," he said.

"As we have seen with the number of cancer deaths it is vital that these pathways to treatment are reopened as soon as possible to prevent as few premature deaths as possible."

Rhun ap Iorweth, Plaid's health spokesman, said dealing effectively with a second wave would require "good management" from the Welsh Government and health boards so routine care could continue.

Image caption,
Rebecca Evans says she believes the NHS will have the money to cope with a difficult winter

Analysis by Owain Clarke, BBC Wales health correspondent

An £800m "stabilisation" package is a lot of cash, but much of it has come as a result of spending decisions already made in England.

For example, we already knew the Welsh Government was due to get £675m as a result of UK government spending to build up stocks of PPE.

A significant amount of the £800m will be spent doing the same in Wales, along with preparing for winter.

But nobody doubts NHS Wales will face immense challenges dealing with what is likely to be its most difficult winter.

Not only will it have to gear up for the potential threat of a second coronavirus wave but also the prospect that the usual winter illnesses like flu might be circulating at the same time - and those on their own in a "normal" winter can stretch capacity and resources to the limit.

The NHS will also have to try to juggle the extra pressures with the growing need to make inroads into waiting lists which have been growing following the postponement of many procedures and operations during the coronavirus first wave.

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