Patients in Wales have been told to only go to hospital when ‘essential’ as part of a new plan to increase community-based care and prevention.
Health and social services secretary for Wales Vaughan Gething has outlined major changes to the way NHS and social care will be organised in the future, with a greater use of community services and less reliance on hospitals.
The proposals are set out in the Welsh Government’s long-term plan for the future of health and social care in Wales, ‘A Healthier Wales‘, which focuses on providing more joined-up services in community settings.
This will remove many of the current ‘frustrations’ expressed by those both using and working within the system, the department said.
The document states: ‘In the future people will only go to a general hospital when it is essential. The intention is to create even better care locally, with support and treatment available across a range of community-based services. This shift will mean that when hospital based care is needed it can be accessed more quickly.’
The changes will begin immediately, with a £100m transformation fund to support the implementation of the plan. The funding will be targeted at resources to speed up the process, including the development of new integrated prevention services and activities in the community.
Mr Gething said: ‘This year we are celebrating the 70th anniversary of the NHS, which was born here in Wales. We remain hugely proud of its achievements and all who work within it. However, it is clear that much has changed in those 70 years. With an increase in life expectancy and our continued public health challenges, the service is facing increasing pressure.
‘This plan sets out our vision for the future – it looks at how we will adapt to meet these future challenges and transform the way we deliver health and social care. We will deliver that change and remain true to the core values of the NHS to provide free healthcare for all.’
This is the first time Welsh Government has set out a shared plan for health and social care.
According to the plans, there will be more focus on seamless services. Information will be shared between services and providers, allowing a smoother patient experience. This will also allow those with the greatest need to be treated first and make the most effective use of resources.
The plan also commits the Welsh Government to increasing investment in digital technologies and to support and develop the workforce, including unpaid carers and volunteers.
The Welsh health secretary added: ‘This will be a revolution from within the health service. We have to move on from the idea that the hospital is the first or best place for you to be when you are unwell. That isn’t always the case, especially when there are a range of local services that will allow you to remain safely at home.
‘I recognise the challenge and this will take time, but change will begin immediately. By the time we celebrate the 80th anniversary of our NHS I expect to see a stronger, joined-up system between health and social care that will be fit to serve people for generations to come.’