Will the Minister make a statement on developments in bed capacity in the NHS in order to tackle the waiting list backlog and emerging challenges such as long COVID?
It is the responsibility for each health board to provide services to meet the needs of their local populations. During the pandemic, health boards have increased their bed capacity to meet demand to safely treat both COVID and non-COVID patients. This included the use of field hospitals across Wales.
As we move forward and the field hospitals close, the amount of available capacity will reduce. Health boards will need to flex the capacity available to ensure that all patients can be seen in a safe environment.
We anticipate the people with long COVID are able to access the majority of the services they need – be that assessment, diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation support – as close to home as possible from primary and community care services, drawing in specialist expertise from secondary care as appropriate.
I have made it clear that we cannot continue to expect to do more of the same, we need to embrace and normalise the role and function of the technology that is available and embrace the new ways of working that were seen at the start of the pandemic. While bed capacity will be important, it will be only part of a bigger picture of the redesign of the health and care system as a whole.
I have recently published the Health and Social Care in Wales - COVID-19 Looking Forward plan developed in partnership with the NHS. It clearly demonstrates that while waiting times and long waits are a key part, there is a wide range of other areas that will also need to be addressed, including the redesign of services to get people out of hospital promptly and back home for recovery and assessment.