Thousands of people a month are accessing care in the community and away from Emergency Departments thanks to a programme to reduce pressure on urgent and emergency care in Wales.
One year on from the launch of the Welsh Government’s Six Goals for Urgent and Emergency Care (‘Six Goals’) Programme, the latest NHS data show that every month 10,000 people are accessing Urgent Primary Care Centres, 4,500 patients are being seen in same day emergency care services, and around 60,000 are using the 111 service for urgent advice.
Launched in April 2022, and backed by £25 million of annual funding, the programme has made early progress over the last twelve months.
Key priorities in year one included:
- increasing access to Urgent Primary Care Centres services to reduce pressure on in-hours GP and Emergency Departments, and;
- increasing access to Same Day Emergency to help people to access diagnostics and treatments and return home on the same day without needing a hospital stay.
Since the start of the Six Goals Programme, 13 Urgent Primary Care Centres have been established across Wales and are now seeing around 10,000 people every month, without needing a traditional GP appointment or presentation at an Emergency Department.
In addition, 12 Same Day Emergency Care services are operating in Wales treating 4,500 every month. NHS data show that around 75% of patients accessing these services are receiving the care they need and are returning home without the need for hospital admission, freeing up hospital beds.
Other early successes to come from the programme include a new NHS 111 Wales mental health crisis pathway that is helping 8 in 10 people avoid the need to access an urgent or emergency care service; new 999 video consultation technology to enable remote clinical assessment; and reductions in long hospital stays for frail older people.
Year two of the programme will focus on supporting Health Boards to:
- Deliver seven-day services and increase out of hours urgent primary care capacity as part of a move to a 24/7 urgent care model;
- Safely reducing the number of 999 patients transported to Emergency Departments;
- Further increase the number of people accessing Same Day Emergency Care services and are discharged home on the same day; and
- Reducing the number of patients who experience a hospital stay over seven and 21 days.
The Minister for Health and Social Care, Eluned Morgan said:
We’ve seen record demand on our emergency and urgent care system in Wales this winter. The latest data show the number of ambulance red calls were 93% higher in March 2023 than in March 2019. Without our Six Goals programme and our delivery of more than 600 extra community beds things could have been much worse this winter.
Despite this additional pressure, performance at major emergency departments in Wales has bettered English performance for the last seven months and has remained stable in contrast to all other parts of the UK.
Since the launch of the Six Goals for Urgent and Emergency Care programme we have seen real progress in signposting people to the right services for their needs, reducing transport of patients by ambulance to hospital and helping more people access urgent care in their local communities. NHS data also show a reduction in the numbers of people spending longer periods in hospital beds which should support better outcomes.
There is no silver bullet in overcoming some of the challenges and pressures faced by urgent and emergency care services across the UK and western Europe. But I expect this progress to continue and for plans to have greater impact on patient outcomes and experiences across the system as the programme moves into its second year.