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Welsh government releases £10m to support NHS ‘under extreme pressure’

Welsh health secretary Vaughan Gething has announced a further £10m for the NHS to counter the extreme pressures being felt this winter.

The money is not specifically earmarked for any purpose but will be used to support health boards, ambulance services and social care services across the country.

In addition to extra funding, the government has taken action to relieve pressure on GPs by relaxing the Quality and Outcomes Framework (QOF) element of their contract until the end of March 2018, allowing doctors and practice nurses to manage their most vulnerable and chronically sick patients.

Gething commented: “NHS organisations have been planning for this period since the end of last winter, supported by £50m of funding from us to help them balance urgent and planned care activity.

“Despite this significant investment, what we have seen in the recent days is a system that is under extreme pressure. During this challenging period, I want to provide the NHS in Wales with an extra £10m of new investment to help front line staff care for our patients through this winter.”

He added that the government knew that services were under great pressure, with some ambulance services reporting increases of up to 50% in life threatening incidents compared to last year.

Dr Charlotte Jones, chair of GPC Wales, said BMA Wales were behind the decision, after her colleague Dr David Bailey, chair of BMA's Welsh Council, described the situation as trying to cope with “inadequate resources, an unsustainable workload and a workforce under considerable strain.”

Jones commented: “I am pleased to see the Welsh Government take this action and am fully supportive of it.

“GPC Wales has put forward a number of additional solutions that we feel will further alleviate pressure on GP teams and we look forward to hearing from the Welsh Government if these solutions can be taken forward.

“In the future we hope that Health Boards will ensure that GPs both in and out of hours are properly engaged in planning for winter pressures so that the whole system can meet the needs of patients.”

Dr Rebecca Payne, chair of RCGP Wales, also welcomed the announcement, adding that the QOF relaxation would be a useful change to help GPs.

“We welcome the relaxation of the quality and outcomes framework (QOF), which will mean GPs spend more time treating patients and less time ticking boxes,” she stated.

“Everyone is aware of the challenges the winter months bring. In the last two years QOF was suspended in January and in the future, we hope this measure can take place earlier, as soon as winter pressures start to hit.”

Winter pressures have hit the NHS hard this year, forcing both health secretary Jeremy Hunt and prime minister Theresa May to apologise for the situation despite saying the service had been well prepared.

Hospitals across the UK were also recently pushed into cancelling non-emergency elective care, to be completed at a later date, in a further attempt to ease demand. But, there are still frontline services struggling heavily under the stress.

Top image: Tim Ireland PA Archive

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