Planning for the winter

18 September 2020

It has been a busy week. Between us, Mair and I have met with the BMA, All Wales Therapeutics and Toxicology Centre, Children’s Commissioner, and addressed a Policy Forum for Wales event on the topic of creating effective primary care teams.

In addition, all three of our Welsh faculties have held their quarterly meetings. However, for this week’s blog I wanted to focus specifically on a much-awaited strategy from Welsh Government.

Plan published

This week Welsh Government revealed its plan to manage winter pressures in the NHS. The Winter Protection Plan (823 KB PDF) seeks to provide a strategy for both that which we can schedule, and that which we cannot such as the availability of a COVID-19 vaccine.

If a vaccine were to become available, then the COVID-19 vaccination programme could begin as early as November.

Of course, we all hope this will be the case, but the arrival time of the vaccine is a matter beyond our control.

How such an immunisation programme would be implemented is something we need to ensure general practice has an influence over. I have some concerns regarding the section of the plan which states:

"Health boards and GPs are working closely to ensure that the most vulnerable people have access to the vaccinations and then to expand access to the vaccinations if possible. GP surgeries will be the first point of call supported by pharmacists and other providers."

While I welcome the desire for health boards and GPs to work very closely on the programme, there does need to be a realistic perspective taken on the capacity of general practice to vaccinate the nation.

PPE extension

The Plan notes personal protective equipment stocks are being based on a need to continue with full provision until March 2021 with supplies channelled to GPs and our primary care colleagues.

Flu vaccinations

As usual, GPs will be at the forefront of the flu vaccination and Welsh Government are targeting to reach at least 75% of those deemed to be at risk including those with clinical conditions along with health and social care workers.

Related issues

The plan also touches upon provision of mental health care and responding to some of the inequalities which have been accentuated during the pandemic.

More research and planning will be required to make a material difference on these issues, but to see the matters included in the plan is welcome.

Ready as we can be

Speaking this week, the Health Minister noted similarities in the COVID-19 patterns to those seen in February. That is a worrying thought for us all.

On the one hand we do know considerably more about the virus than we did then. On the other, there are still many unknowns and a vaccine remains elusive for all the excellent research work underway.

With two Welsh local authorities reverting to a version of lockdown and others seemingly on the brink of doing so, we are once again left making educated guesses at the challenges ahead.

We’ll be doing our best to keep you informed of the College’s work as general practice readies itself for a potential further spike in coronavirus cases.. 


Post written by

Professor Peter Saul, Joint Chair of RCGP Wales

Professor Peter Saul qualified in 1985 and currently is a partner in Rhosllanerchrugog near Wrexham. He combines his work in the practice with his other professional passion of medical education, in the role of Associate Postgraduate Dean in the Wales Deanery. He also works one session a week running the Paediatric Allergy Clinic at Chester Hospital.

Peter has been an active member of his local RCGP faculty, serving as Chair and as Treasurer. He is also actively involved with the media, with a medical column in the local newspaper and as a regular radio contributor.

For fun he rides a bike (his favourite being his red Brompton), and when in need of a loftier perspective he flies his part owned light aircraft from Welshpool Airport. He lives on a smallholding and has three grown up children, one of whom is a junior doctor in London.

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