Lesley Griffiths, Minister for Health and Social Services
I am pleased to provide an update for Assembly Members regarding the management of emergency pressures by the Welsh NHS over the seasonal and New Year periods.
This is always an exceptionally busy time and this year we are seeing the impact of an increasing number of norovirus cases and, most recently, more patients with flu, viral illness and respiratory and cardiac conditions. Generally the NHS is responding to more acutely ill patients, along with higher levels of dependency.
The NHS has anticipated these pressures and developed detailed responsive plans. These plans are based on clinical safety and priority, dealing with the most poorly patients first. The NHS is managing a difficult situation well and I want to pay particular tribute to the many health care professionals who are working with great commitment and dedication at such a challenging time.
There is daily communication between NHS organisations. Decisions are taken regarding priorities in the light of the changing demand. Welsh Government acts as a point of co-ordination to ensure necessary alignment and coherence of plans and action.
Health Boards have opened ‘surge’ capacity to accommodate the peaks in demand. They are liaising with Social Service Departments to ensure timely discharge of patients. Close working between Health Boards and the Ambulance Service is continuing to enable effective transport of patients to and from hospital. Health Boards are also ensuring all capacity is used to provide care to the most poorly patients. At times, planned routine operations are delayed to ensure beds are available for those requiring urgent, emergency attention. Decisions of this nature are taken locally reflecting specific clinical demand and capacity issues.
Undoubtedly, the pressures will continue. There are indications of an increase in the incidence of flu and I would again encourage all eligible individuals who have not done so to seek an early flu vaccination. However, I am pleased to reassure members the NHS is rising to a range of challenges in a manner which prioritises safety and those in most need.