Action Taken To Ease Pressure On Welsh Hospitals

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Health Minister Edwina Hart outlined a series of measures being taken in an effort to reduce the effect of winter pressures on the NHS in Wales.

Mrs Hart said that hospitals across Wales are experiencing increased demand on services earlier this year due to the recent colder weather.

However, she said that despite that demand, NHS staff are continuing to deliver high quality care for patients.

The measures put in place include:

• A winter pressures group for each of the three regions – mid and west, south and north Wales – has been established to bring together senior staff from the NHS, local authorities and other organisations to put in place clear protocols and contingency arrangements in place across the health and care system;

• Senior Welsh Assembly Government officials overseeing the situation across Wales through regular communication with senior NHS managers to assess levels of demand, identify pressures and to take appropriate action to improve the situation. There a range of possible options available to manage the situation, including diverting patients to less busy hospitals, opening up additional beds and increasing consultant rounds to see if patients can safely be released sooner; and,

• Senior NHS managers will be assessing the situation on a daily basis and providing situation reports to the Welsh Assembly Government to ensure a tight control is kept on the system across Wales. These are long standing arrangements which have been improved year-on-year.

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In October, the Health Minister wrote to all NHS organisations and local authorities to improve their discharge planning arrangements for patients who require social care.

The Keep Well This Winter campaign has also commenced, which provides advice and guidance to the public on how to keep warm, safe and well. This should help people to stay healthy and not need the help of the emergency services.

Mrs Hart said: "I want to pay tribute to frontline staff and managers who have and are continuing to work so hard to deliver care for patients despite significant increases in demand on the NHS.

"Hospitals expect to face increase pressure at this time of year, and are well used to planning for that, but so far this year, there has been higher demand due to the recent cold snap."

Mrs Hart also urged patients to act responsibly and not put unnecessary strain on services at this time of year.

Patients are being reminded to consider using NHS Direct or the GPs out of hours service for conditions that do not need urgent attention.

She added: "People can't help when they fall ill or when they need emergency care, and when that happens, the NHS aims to deliver the most appropriate care. People who inappropriately use the ambulance services and accident and emergency departments for non-emergencies are diverting resources away from those who may be in desperate need of care and urgent attention.

"Given that today is 'black Friday' when the service will be extremely busy, I would encourage people to consider accessing other health services rather than calling 999 or arriving at accident and emergency. This will help ensure that staff can focus on those most in need."

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