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5th November 2021

Written Statement: Health and Social Care Winter Plan 2021-22

Eluned Morgan, Minister for Health and Social Services:

Further to my oral statement on 19 October, I am pleased to update Members on the publication of the Health and Social Care Winter Plan for 2021-22.

A copy of the plan can be found at the link below:

https://gov.wales/health-and-social-care-winter-plan-2021-2022

This plan has been developed in consultation with health and care partners, following months of planning, in order to improve resilience of our health and social care services in anticipation of   what can be expected to be an extremely challenging winter.

We are expecting a particularly difficult winter with forecasts for ongoing COVID cases alongside predictions of a worse year for winter flu and other winter viruses because of the low immunity in our population. We are also seeking to minimise the other harms from COVID by maintaining a strong focus on our essential services and working to reduce the backlog of patients waiting for planned treatments, which has developed as a result of the safety measures undertaken during the pandemic.

At the heart of this plan is a focus on patient safety, and wellbeing. Through preventive activities to keep people well, we will reduce the need for urgent and emergency care and try to reduce the pressure on the NHS. This includes the continuation of our TTP programme and a programme of vaccination for seasonal flu.

However, the fluctuations in COVID rates and the pressures of other winter illnesses will mean that the health and social care system will be constantly rebalancing and re-prioritising this winter to use its resources to treat the sickest and most urgent patients. At times, this may mean difficult decisions to reduce planned care activity but our NHS will be doing everything it can to provide support for patients while they are waiting for their treatments.

Our NHS and social care workers have worked with commitment and compassion and we know they are exhausted, so a key priority of this plan is to continue our actions to support recruitment and retention of the workforce and provide support to staff.

The plan calls for collaboration from our public services to ensure the best use of our resources, particularly our workforce and also calls on the public to do their part this winter to take up opportunities to keep well, including the offer of vaccination for flu and COVID.

Recognising the challenges across the health and social care system, we are making an extra £40m funding available for social care to help ease the pressure on hospital beds. This comes on top of £248m already announced for the NHS COVID recovery fund.

Each Regional Partnership Board is asked to provide a plan to address the priorities set out in the winter plan to keep Wales safe this winter.

I will provide members with further updates throughout the winter.