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Health Minister Eluned Morgan has set out plans to transform the delivery of urgent and emergency care in Wales, during an exceptionally challenging time for services.

First published:
22 July 2021
Last updated:

Centred around six goals for the health and care system, and supported by £25m a year recurrent funding, the plans are intended to support people to access the right care, in the right place, as quickly as possible. This will help relieve pressure on GPs, ambulance services and emergency departments.

The Minister said:

Demand on NHS Wales’ GPs, ambulances and emergency departments continues to grow beyond pre-pandemic levels. Staff are under real pressure.

As set out in our Programme for Government we want to make sure everyone can access the high quality care they need in the right place, the first time.

We have created ‘six goals for urgent and emergency care’ for our Health Boards and their partners to work towards achieving consistently and reliably. Achieving all six goals will deliver better outcomes, staff and patient experiences and value.

We are providing £25m a year to develop and embed new ways of working to create a more integrated system and relieve pressure on certain services.

NHS Wales’ organisations and Regional Partnership Boards will also be expected to place a greater emphasis on supporting independent living and well-being to prevent the need for urgent or emergency care.

We want everyone to be able to access the care they need quickly and easily. Often people feel they have no option but to go to their GP, call 999 or go to their nearest emergency department for advice or treatment. But under our new plans, people with urgent care needs could be treated elsewhere by the many different health professionals working in NHS Wales.

For example funding has been given to Health Boards to develop new Urgent Primary Care Centres, where people with urgent care needs can be assessed and treated without the need for a GP appointment or going to a busy emergency department.

We are also investing in a national 111 service, which will direct people to the care they need in the right place, first time. This could be self-care, advice at a pharmacy, an appointment at a minor injuries unit or direct access to specialist advice, by-passing the need to attend an Emergency Department.

Additional funding will also be made in ’same day emergency care’ to support people who need face-to-face diagnostic and treatment, but can return home the same day, where it is safe to do so.

As well as the new £25m fund, Regional Partnership Boards - which bring together local authorities, health boards, registered social landlords and the third sector to improve people's health and care - will get £6m this year for schemes to help people to return home from hospital when they are clinically ready, reducing unnecessarily long stays and freeing up essential bed capacity. This ‘home first’ approach should also reduce the risk of people needing to be readmitted to hospital.

She added:

We will publish the six goals handbook in the new Senedd term and it will also describe in detail the standards patients should expect when they want or need urgent or emergency care.

It is essential we make these changes quickly but thoroughly, given a very difficult summer and what will be a challenging winter on the horizon.

I expect all Health Boards, NHS Trusts and Regional Partnership Boards to make rapid progress on the six goals over the summer period, to start making real changes in the here and now and with a difficult winter period in prospect.

The ‘six goals for urgent and emergency care’ are:

  1. Coordination, planning and support for people at greater risk of needing urgent or emergency care
  2. Signposting to the right place, first time
  3. Alternatives to hospital admission
  4. Rapid response in a physical or mental health crisis
  5. Optimal hospital care following admission
  6. Home-first approach and reduce risk of readmission

Last week the Welsh Government launched the Help US, Help You campaign to remind people how else they can access care in the right place for their needs.

The Minister added:

As we move out of the pandemic restrictions, we are seeing demand on GPs, ambulance and emergency departments increasing rapidly. The summer is always a busy time in terms of demand on these services. But with high temperatures and increased tourism together with the challenges of the pandemic, it has become an exceptionally difficult period for the NHS.

I would urge everyone to Help Us, Help You by behaving responsibly and considering other options for care to get the right treatment, first time.

Non-emergency medical advice is available via the 111 website and helpline, pharmacists can provide advice on a range of ailments and opticians can help with eye-related problems.