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Health Minister Eluned Morgan and WLGA leader Andrew Morgan have announced more than 500 extra step-down beds and community care packages for Wales this winter, to help people get care closer to home and free up hospital beds.

First published:
16 December 2022
Last updated:

The ‘Step Down’ service will support people to return to their communities when they no longer need treatment in hospital but may require more time, support, and specialist care. Care at home services are also being boosted to enable more people to return to their own home.

An extra 508 beds and community care packages have been confirmed by local health boards and local authorities so far, with many more currently being negotiated.

They are being provided by funding from the Welsh Government’s Regional Integration Fund and local authorities and health boards’ own resources.

The Welsh Government this week also announced an extra £70m to ensure social care workers in Wales will receive the Real Living Wage. That is part of wider efforts to recruit and retain social care workers and strengthen the sector to help support eh NHS as it faces one of its toughest winters.

Health Minster Eluned Morgan said:

“Our health service is facing unprecedented demand this winter. But we know some people are staying in hospital longer than they need to. This in turn, has a severe knock-on effect for people waiting for operations and creates delays for the ambulance service. We have been working hard with health boards and local authorities for months to make sure we have enough community beds this winter and there is still work going on to secure more beds. I hope to be able to announce more beds soon. Through this new initiative we can not only care for people closer to home but also free up more beds in our hospitals.”

Deputy Minister for Social Services Julie Morgan said: 

“We know everyone wants to return to their community as soon as possible, following a hospital stay. But the current social care workforce shortages mean that’s not always possible at the moment. A short-term stay in a Step Down facility, is the next best thing, with review and transfer to home as soon as possible.

This week we also announced a £70m investment for social workers to receive the Real Living Wage. This is part of our longer-term strategy to boost the recruitment and retention of social care staff in Wales and to make sure the care system can meet future demand.”

Councillor Andrew Morgan (Rhondda Cynon Taf), WLGA Leader said: 

“We know the health sector and social care services are both under severe strain. These innovative packages will help to build move-on capacity and improve flow across the health and social care system and to free some of the areas under pressures, such as discharges from hospitals and the impact this can have on ambulance waiting lists and admittance to hospitals.

This increased capacity in the community, that councils have created working in partnership with health and supported by our social care providers, is an example of the practical solutions that happen as a product of co-operation across the health sector, Welsh Government and local government, which we hope will have tangible benefits and positive impacts for individuals, particularly over the Winter period when services remain under significant pressure.”

People who are referred to ‘step down’ facilities include those who are medically fit to leave hospital, no longer meet the criteria for an acute hospital bed but require care and support services which cannot be provided in their own homes or require a short-term stay as they are deemed unsafe to return to their home pending a start date for community packages of care.

Individuals, their families and carers will be provided with information on their care plans.