As we approach this winter we are facing the most challenging of times. Winter for our health and social services colleagues is always difficult, however, the occurrence of COVID-19 has added a further dimension, representing an unprecedented positon.
To ensure that we are all prepared, and have the resources and plans in place to deal with this challenge I am pleased to announce the development of a ‘Winter Protection Plan’ for Wales.
This plan will address health and social care and also link in with our wider partners in the third and independent sector, as we all work collectively to ensure we can manage the challenges ahead.
This plan will set out expectations for health and social care and inform engagement with wider partners and stakeholders and will provide a clear direction for the remainder of the year.
The plan will build on the four harms approach which we have used to underpin our existing planning arrangements with health and social care to date:
- Harm from COVID-19 itself
- Harm from overwhelmed NHS and social care system
- Harm from reduction in non COVID-19 activity
- Harm from wider societal actions/ lockdown
The approach will provide us with greater certainty on a number of critical areas. We need to have assurance on the future demand our health and social care services will face. Modelling and the advice that the government continues to receive from our Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) will play a significant part in that. Likewise it is essential that there are appropriate and adequate supplies of PPE throughout the winter months.
Patients need to receive appropriate care both in the community and in hospital, if that is the appropriate place for them. Patients should expect to receive care if they fall ill with COVID-19 but also be supported for other conditions, especially those that are urgent and life threatening. The health and social care sector must remain open for everyone and the Winter Protection Plan will ensure that we are working together to achieve this and that all our essential services are flexible and agile to meet those needs.
We recognise how hard our health and social care staff, and other key workers have worked over the last few months. The Winter Protection Plan will look to provide reassurance around our workforce and greater resilience over the winter.
We will draw on the work that has already been undertaken on testing, with the launch of the Test, Trace and Protect Strategy for Wales; as well as the need to support an expanded and comprehensive flu vaccination campaign this autumn.
Much has been learnt and we are living and working in an environment many are calling the “new normal”. We have taken opportunities to make better use of resources and improve services for patients e.g. virtual consultations and treatment pathways. The Winter Protection Plan will build on those gains and looks to drive further innovation across health and social care sector and into community resilience as well to ensure that “Together we’ll keep Wales safe”.
The Winter Protection Plan will be issued in September. It will set out clearly for , those delivering our services what is expected, showing how we can work together to deliver safe, resilient services over the winter.
I will provide members with more details in September when the plan will be published.
This statement is being issued during recess in order to keep members informed. Should members wish me to make a further statement or to answer questions on this when the Senedd returns I would be happy to do so.