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Welsh NHS waiting times high as Govt promises new care plan

WAITING times at Welsh hospitals will be improved if different parts of the NHS and social care system work together and stop blaming other departments for patient flow problems, the nation’s health minister has said.

Eluned Morgan admitted there were “extreme pressures” on the health service that had been “compounded” by the pandemic, but vowed a new five-year, £144 million strategy would improve the links between health and social care.

Her comments to the Senedd’s health committee come as new NHS figures show waiting lists for treatment, ambulance service callouts, and the number of patients waiting more than 12 hours at A&E departments all increased last month.

The health minister said such problems were not “Welsh-unique” and were being “confronted across the United Kingdom”, but admitted patient flow in Wales’ hospitals was “a real issue”.

She said there was “a danger people will say ‘it’s not me, it’s them’ – the ambulance services say ‘we can’t get people into hospital because there’s issues at A&E’.

“And then A&E say ‘we can’t get people into hospital because we haven’t got any beds’.

“And then the hospital directors say ‘we can’t do it because we can’t get people out of hospitals’, and everybody’s blaming each other.”

“There’s always room to improve,” Ms Morgan added. “We desperately want to improve on a situation where we have 1,000 people in hospital who shouldn’t be there, but we’re trying to tackle this. The fragility of the care sector is a really key issue here.”

She said the Welsh Government would issue new national guidance to hospitals and would take a “whole-system approach” to “embed the integration between health and social services”.

Julie Morgan, the deputy minister for social services, agreed the care sector in Wales was “fragile before the pandemic and it’s more fragile since then”.

“Delays to discharges affect the whole of the health service, and nothing illustrates more the importance of health and social care working together,” she added.

“Obviously there is more to do, because 1,000 people waiting in hospital is just not satisfactory. We know that a substantial number of those people waiting are waiting for packages of care, waiting for support to go home, or to go in a care home.”

The deputy minister also said shortages of staff in the care sector “are one of the major things that are holding us up”.

The Welsh Government has this month carried out a “system reset” summit with health boards, councils and other agencies to “get together to work through the issues”, Nick Wood, the deputy chief of the Welsh NHS said.

“There’s now a clear action plan as we move forward,” he said, adding: “Is it the magic bullet to solve the system issues? No it’s not. But it is the starting gun, if you like, for a long-term improvement plan that we need to implement across Wales.”

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