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Pandemic recovery plan for health and care services in Wales published

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Welsh Government Health Minister, Vaughan Gething has published a plan, supported by an initial £100m funding, to help the health and care system in Wales to recover from the Covid-19 pandemic.

The plan – Health and Social Care in Wales COVID 19: Looking Forward – looks to reduce health inequalities and build more responsive primary and community care.

It also focuses on creating supportive mental health services and more effective and efficient hospital services. The plan calls for better working between health and social services, supporting and building a resilient workforce and provide accessible digital support.

Mr Gething said: “The Covid-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on our health and social care system, patients and staff. As we emerge from the most serious stage of the pandemic, we are now in a position to set out how we can start to recover.

“This plan sets out the broad principles of recovery and more detailed actions will follow. I am making available an initial £100m now to support the first steps, but it is clear more resources will be needed to make a full recovery.

“It will be a long journey, but it is also an opportunity to transform how we deliver health and care services in the future, and to tackle the health inequalities in our society that the pandemic has made even more evident.

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“That is why, alongside our recovery plan, I am also pleased to announce our National Clinical Framework, which sets out how we see NHS clinical services developing over the next decade.”

The National Clinical Framework is a commitment made in A Healthier Wales and describes how the strategic development of clinical services can make the NHS fit for the challenges of the 21st century. It responds to key aspects of the Parliamentary Review on the future of health and social care in Wales.

It is underpinned by the introduction of Quality Statements that set out in more detail the standards and outcomes we expect to see from particular clinical services. The first two quality statements are for cancer and heart conditions, and replace the Cancer and Heart Condition Delivery Plans, which came to an end in December.

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Mr Gething said: “Developed with clinicians, these documents set out how we will meet our vision for a modern NHS that can meet the demand of the futures, as set-out in our long-term plan for health and social care, A Healthier Wales.”

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New technology, much of which emerged during the pandemic, will play a key part in the future delivery of services and today the Welsh Government also announced £1.26m to set up a centre to promote the use of new technologies in health and social care.

The investment will allow Technology Enabled Care Cymru to promote the use of new technologies, such as virtual consultation and remote monitoring of patients at home.

NHS Wales Chief Executive Andrew Goodall said the health and social care system is committed to learning from the pandemic and scaling up technological innovation.

“Previously, only 8 per cent of outpatient consultations were virtual, but this has increased to more than 43 per cent since the start of the pandemic,” he said.

“For many patients this is a significant improvement in how they access services and we need to build on that, while ensuring that capacity for face-to-face services is focused on people who need to be seen in person.”

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A summary of a new study of the technological innovations that emerged during the pandemic was also published today. The NHS Wales COVID-19 Innovation and Transformation Study has been undertaken to capture learning that can enable, scale and sustain innovative and transformative ways of working across NHS Wales.

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Ahead of the publication, Plaid Cymru’s Shadow Health Minister Rhun ap Iorwerth says that any plans that focus solely on ‘recovery from the pandemic’ overlook two decades of “managed decline”. 

Information published last week (Thursday 18 March) shows record highs for NHS Wales waiting lists, but Mr ap Iorwerth said that this masks problems that were already there and that waiting times for treatment and diagnostics were already too long before the pandemic. He said:

“Backlogs in surgery and diagnosis, a tired and understaffed workforce and missed targets – this was already the legacy of 20 years of Labour Health Ministers, before the pandemic struck. And they’ll only be repeated, unless our health and care system is completely transformed.

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“Labour acknowledges these inequalities but does not accept the responsibility for this managed decline.

“Plaid Cymru will begin by training and recruiting 1,000 additional doctors and 5,000 nurses and other health workers taking pressure off the current workforce, and our seamless new National Health AND Care Service will give care workers the respect they deserve, putting them on the same terms and conditions and pay scales as health workers. 

“Staff and patients will benefit. Our cancer plan will speed up diagnosis and treatment, young people will be supported with their mental health and wellbeing through a network of youth welfare hubs. And we’ll prioritise preventative measures like never before.

“We can’t go back to how things were. Our NHS has to be rebuilt in a way that makes it more robust than ever – a task Plaid Cymru will begin on day one of Government.”

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