What is the future for the Welsh NHS?

Published 08/06/2018   |   Last Updated 27/05/2021   |   Reading Time minutes

‘A Revolution from Within: Transforming Health and Care in Wales’.

Those who have been working in and around the NHS in Wales for some time could be excused for being sceptical about the publication of yet another report restating the challenges facing the Welsh NHS – ‘the Parliamentary Review of Health and Social Care Final Report – A Revolution from Within: Transforming Health and Care in Wales’ was published in January 2018. But the response to this report has been generally positive; not least because of the reality of continuing austerity facing our public services.

The report makes a major contribution to the debate on how to create a sustainable health and care system in Wales. It sets out the case for change and highlights a number of challenges and opportunities for reform.

Whether its recommendations are considered implementable will be evident when the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Social Services, Vaughan Gething AM makes a statement on the long term plan for health and social care in Plenary on Tuesday (12 June 2018). The new ‘long term plan’ will take account of the Parliamentary Review report’s recommendations.

The Parliamentary Review of Health and Social Care in Wales

The Parliamentary Review of Health and Social Care – an independent review into the future of health and social care in Wales was established following the 2016 National Assembly for Wales elections. It had cross-party support and was seen as a way of helping to depoliticise the debate about how the Welsh NHS should be structured to meet future demand.

The review makes recommendations about what health and social care should look like in the future. It recommends new models of care with services organised around the individual and their family as close to home as possible. It emphasises that services need to be preventative and that care and support should be seamless, without artificial barriers between physical and mental health, primary and secondary care, or health and social care. It also recognises the need to involve the public in the design and development of new service models.

The report also has a focus on nurturing and empowering employees across the health and social care system and calls for greater staff wellbeing, training, management and engagement.

However, its main message is one of radical transformation - services need to innovate and modernise at a much faster rate if they are to continue to provide quality care. The report is clear that the scale and urgency of the reform needed is such that incremental changes to the current models of care will not suffice. To achieve better health and well-being for the people of Wales, stronger national direction is needed to enable the health and social care system to respond to the pressures it faces.

The challenges of undertaking reform of this magnitude are significant. Demand for services continues to grow, resources are scarce, and support for major reconfiguration cannot be guaranteed, particularly where hospitals are concerned.

The question is can the Welsh NHS deliver transformation at the scale and pace needed? The Parliamentary Review report recommends establishing a National Transformation Fund and programme. Will the Welsh Government agree to this and make additional investment available?

It is hoped that the Cabinet Secretary’s statement on Tuesday will provide the detail on how this transformation will take place. The future of health and social care in Wales will arguably be determined by this important strategy.

Article by Sarah Hatherley, National Assembly for Wales Research Service