Vanessa Young says there is still a need for a long-term vision for health and social care in Wales
Since its creation, providing the best care to patients has remained at the heart of what the NHS does.
There are many things to celebrate about the vital work that goes on each and every day across NHS Wales. But at the same time, we know that many significant challenges remain.
The combination of public finance constraints and societal changes, such as an ageing population, an increase in the levels of chronic disease and unhealthy lifestyles, is putting huge pressure on our health service.
In the run-up to the National Assembly election in May, the Welsh NHS Confederation made a number of calls for the new Welsh Government to consider when it comes to addressing some of the key challenges ahead.
These calls were based on five themes – need, workforce, integration, public health and finance.
There are many aspects of the new Programme for Government that set out to address some of these issues and we are pleased to see the Welsh Government recognise the link between good health and education, employment and building a stronger economy and society.
We have many opportunities in Wales to come together to look at some of the solutions to the challenges faced across public services. Thanks to the size of Wales, we are able to get public sector leaders in the same room to discuss the issues, identify what action is needed and learn from each other.
Our overarching call prior to May’s election was for a long-term vision for health and social care and feel that this is still required. We welcome the introduction of a Parliamentary Review and hope that this will develop the long-term vision that is needed.
We also back pledges to prioritise mental health, to invest in new technologies to help the NHS become more efficient and continue the direction of travel for more services to be delivered within the community. However, transformation requires investment and the public finance settlement for Wales remains unclear.
The fundamental need to change from a hospital-based to a community-based service will require capital and revenue investment in NHS estate, ICT and new service delivery models. Therefore, in addition to a positive revenue settlement, we would like to see investment for transformation and transition to new ways of working.
Wales is facing some significant public health challenges and we welcome plans to educate children on the importance of physical activity and health lifestyles, as well as taking action to reduce the levels of smoking, alcohol consumption and physical inactivity.
Recruitment and retention of the workforce was listed as the biggest challenge by our members before the election and we welcome the pledges to address some of the workforce challenges. However, we would like to see more detail on how we make these a success and make sure it applies to the wider health and care workforce.
We would also support a commitment from the Welsh Government to the Prudent Healthcare and public engagement agenda over the coming years, as the NHS gears itself up to work smarter, develop new relationships with patients and helps the public to take greater responsibility for their own health and wellbeing.
Our members will continue to work hard to deliver high quality care for patients and their families as well as identify new ways of working to provide integrated services which meet people’s needs and have a focus on prevention and early intervention. But we need leadership and support from politicians of all parties.
While we welcome the broad pledges outlined in the Programme for Government, we would be keen to see more detail and look forward to working with colleagues to identify and agree the action that needs to be taken to achieve them.