A new report from the Welsh NHS Confederation showcases innovative services and initiatives that will enable patients to access the care and support they need sooner and closer to home.
As health and care services continue to face unrivalled system pressures, NHS organisations and partners are working to keep people out of hospital and treat more patients in the community.
Primary and community care act as the ‘front door’ of the NHS. Their aim is to provide the most appropriate route to the right care, forming part of an important ecosystem which helps support early intervention and prevention and enables patients to stay well closer to home. It is a vital part of a vision for an integrated health and care service to create a healthier population.
However, like the rest of the system, primary and community care are currently experiencing a high level of demand and pressure. Since the pandemic, services are combining face-to-face and virtual consultations to respond to increased demand and patients’ needs. For example, the innovation team at Velindre Cancer Centre has launched an artificial intelligence (AI) chatbot to support patients, their loved ones and members of the public in a world-first for oncology-trained AI.
Dental services have also been severely impacted by the pandemic and NHS organisations are working to alleviate pressures in the long term, with a focus on expanding the workforce. For example, Health Education Improvement Wales has introduced an enhanced offer for dental trainees aimed at improving rural services, while Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board has established a dental academy to address workforce shortages.
NHS organisations are also working to ensure that GPs can refer patients to timely diagnostic services, with Aneurin Bevan University Health Board opening a one-stop rapid diagnostic centre for patients presenting with vague symptoms.
These programmes and initiatives form part of a drive to create a stronger, healthier population in Wales. By providing more services in the community, the NHS is helping to reduce future demand across the whole health and care system.
Director of the Welsh NHS Confederation, Darren Hughes, said:
“In challenging times it’s important to recognise the wealth of innovative work being carried out across the health and care system to improve services for patients, now and in the future. Teams are implementing these initiatives in the context of huge workforce and financial challenges, as well as increased demand from patients with more acute needs.
“Alongside developments such as the expansion of the 111 service, NHS organisations are developing new and innovative services to allow patients to access the care and support that they need sooner and closer to home. This has never been more important, with health inequalities exacerbated by the cost-of-living crisis.
“So much focus is on hospitals, but without primary and community care, early intervention, prevention and being treated closer to home wouldn’t be possible. It’s vital that further capacity is created in primary and community care services to respond to the needs of the population.”
We are the membership organisation that brings together, supports and speaks for the whole healthcare system in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. The members we represent employ 1.5 million staff, care for more than 1 million patients a day and control £150 billion of public expenditure. We promote collaboration and partnership working as the key to improving population health, delivering high-quality care and reducing health inequalities.