Well the summer is definitely over – the central heating has been on, I’ve had ice on my windscreen in the morning and it’s time to don the winter wardrobe. Autumn is always a busy period in the NHS calendar as the planning season starts in earnest, but this September has been a particularly busy month for the NHS and the Welsh NHS Confederation. There is the small matter of Brexit, with the prospect of a no-deal having shot up the agenda.
As the UK Government released technical notices on the implications of a no-deal Brexit, we have continued to work with the Welsh Government and NHS Leaders to understand the key risks to the NHS. In the first half of the month we convened a roundtable event to highlight the concerns of health and social care leaders to Welsh Government Ministers, resulting in agreement to establish a Ministerial Stakeholder Reference Group to oversee the EU withdrawal implications for health and care. While we were pleased with this outcome there is much more to do to prepare for Brexit, whatever the outcome of the negotiations – we have to be absolutely sure that the NHS is ready and able to respond in the event of a no-deal scenario and this requires thorough planning. As the old adage goes we can hope for the best, but need to prepare for the worst. The Welsh NHS Confederation will be working with the Welsh Government and our members to help co-ordinate, communicate and engage the system over the coming months to support a seamless transition to a post Brexit NHS.
It’s been more than three months since A Healthier Wales was published with a fanfare, but it feels like we have lost a little momentum over the summer. Whether that’s because of the fabulous weather, the traditional holiday season, or because the NHS has faced winter style pressures, we need to regain momentum and re-energise the system to push on with the transformation agenda. In traditional style the initial focus has been on bidding into the Transformation Fund and discussions about governance, but we are now moving beyond that to consider the bigger opportunities of a cross sector workforce strategy, regional planning, long term condition prevention strategies and cultural change.
For our part we have been focusing on building relationships with our partners in local government, recognising that working successfully across organisational boundaries depends on shared values, common purpose, understanding each other and seamless leadership. We were really pleased to participate in the National Social Care Conference on 12/13 September and to host a dinner for NHS and Local Government Chief Executives to discuss A Healthier Wales and we look forward to supporting members to continue this dialogue over the coming months. In the meantime, decisions and debates around the transformation of health and care in Mid and West Wales this week will be crucial in testing Wales’ appetite and ability to make the difficult choices required to secure the wellbeing of current and future generations.
On the public affairs front we have been very active, producing responses to Assembly Committee inquiries on Brexit, the Welsh Government’s Draft Budget and the role of carers. We have also produced briefings for members, stakeholders and politicians on the proposed Autism Bill, Brexit, seamless services and transforming clinical services, all of which are available on our website. Our aim through our public affairs and policy work is to help inform and enhance the debate in the Assembly Chamber as well as to share good practice and stimulate system leadership discussions across the health and social care sector.
While we all recognise the pressures and challenges facing the NHS in Wales and beyond, there is so much to be celebrated – NHS staff are amazing – resilient, committed and motivated to improve services for patients and ways of working. The same is true of social care staff and this month we have seen excellent examples in the NHS Wales Awards and the Social Care Accolades. These events are very special, particularly for the finalists and the winners, but we also need to take every opportunity to acknowledge staff throughout the service for the good work they do every day. Our newsletter highlights some of the great examples of excellence that are being delivered within NHS organisations right now.
Talking of recognising staff, we are delighted the Trade Unions have unanimously agreed to accept the new three year pay deal for non-medical NHS staff in Wales. This means that as well as the pay deal, there will be reform of the pay structure and changes to terms and conditions. Added to this we had more good news with the Welsh Government agreeing in full the recommendations of the Review Body on Doctors' and Dentists' Remuneration.
Looking ahead, October will be an interesting month with the publication of the Welsh Government’s Draft Budget and the highly anticipated EU Summit on the UK’s withdrawal. How will the Welsh Government balance the need to ensure funding for the NHS in Wales keeps pace with the rest of the UK while also recognising the investment desperately needed to support social care and the local services on which delivery of A Healthier Wales and Prosperity for All depend? At the same time, we will be focussing attentions on the need to prepare for EU withdrawal. There is never a quiet moment in the NHS, but preparing for the consequence of Brexit couldn’t come at a worse time as NHS and social care colleagues also seek to manage the relentless pressure on services in the knowledge that in the words of Jon Snow “winter is coming…”