It’s been a little over a year since the Welsh Government published their long-term plan for health and social care, A Healthier Wales.
Within the Welsh NHS we had been calling for a long-term vision and an integrated health and social care system which aimed to keep patients close to home and for as long as possible.
A Healthier Wales is an ambitious vision for how we do just that, transforming the way we deliver health and social care services for people in Wales. The long-term plan takes us from an acute service to a wellness service, and from the hospital and into our communities.
We’re all familiar with the challenges which face health and social care. An ageing population with more complex needs, workforce pressures and squeezed resources, all of which contribute towards the quality of service we can deliver and improvements in patient outcomes.
For 70 years we followed the same model of treating people at the point they needed our care. It’s fair to say we didn’t just need to freshen things up a bit, we had to fundamentally change the way we work to provide services which meet the demands of the Welsh population now and in the future.
That’s why prevention, early intervention, using new technologies and innovative care models are such integral components of the long-term plan and why the NHS in Wales is fully behind this direction of travel.
People will rightly be asking the question, so what has changed?
Across Wales there are now a significant number of initiatives and services helping to change the culture and service delivery within our health and social care system so we can enable people to live happier, healthier and longer lives.
If you’re in a rural area, you may have access to intergenerational programmes which support learning new IT skills, helping to reduce social isolation.
Young people have had opportunities to explore the various career paths within health and social care. Students attended a Medical Work Observation Scheme to get first-hand experience of what it is like to work in a medical environment, and to encourage training, working and living in Wales.
And with evidence suggesting a regular bike ride could help cut the risk of heart disease by half, we have seen GPs prescribing bicycles in Cardiff to help encourage physical activity.
Some of these projects are supported by a Welsh Government £100m transformation fund to help speed up the pace of the change.
While there are many positive stories to tell and we have momentum on our side, we must continue to stay on this trajectory to do more so everybody in Wales can benefit from the services we are providing. The initiatives we’ve seen piloted and developed over the last year now need to be scaled up and become the norm.
What we’ve achieved so far is only a small fraction of what needs to happen. Organisations across health and social care are engaging with and collaborating across sectors like we never have before.
Whether you’re feeling inspired to work within health and social care or helping your relatives find activities within the community which improves their wellbeing or simply dusting down your rusty old bike and taking it out for a spin - it’s all of us, working together, that will make A Healthier Wales, work.
We’re on the right track but now it’s time for us to show the people of Wales what we can really do.
Nesta Lloyd-Jones is the Interim Director of the Welsh NHS Confederation