National Association for Patient Participation

WALES Government faces questions over winter pressures

12 January 2018

Winter pressures have once again been making headlines. Over recent weeks media coverage has been dominated by stories focusing on the pressure facing our health and social care services.

The Welsh Government’s response has been the suspension of QOF and an additional £10million to the health service. The College issued a response to the announcement which was covered by ITV Wales here.

This week the Welsh Assembly returned from recess and unsurprisingly the issue of winter pressures featured prominently in First Minister’s Questions. The Leaders of the Welsh Conservatives and Plaid Cymru pressed the First Minister on the Welsh Government’s response.

The First Minister paid tribute to the work of Welsh NHS staff in all settings, including those in primary care. He said that staff had performed ‘heroically and magnificently’, and recognised that GPs were on the ‘frontline’.

He was also keen to stress that the pressures were not predictable, saying a ‘spike’ in demand compared to the same time last year was to blame. He said he would be looking into why this was the case.

The following day the Cabinet Secretary for Health answered a topical question on winter pressures and answered along the same lines as the First Minister, once again praising staff and noting that while much attention is placed on ‘the front door of a hospital’ primary care providers have had 100,000 contacts across the country in peak days.

In truth, there has been little substance on how winter pressures will be better combatted in the future. Solutions will clearly be needed. RCGP Wales has previously stressed the importance of GPs being more involved in winter pressure planning.

At the very least, it was encouraging to hear the repeated references to GPs and recognition that winter pressure is not confined to hospitals. A thriving primary care sector keeps people out of hospital – supporting general practice benefits the entire Welsh NHS.

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