National Care Service plan for Wales welcomed but immediate challenges remain

Welsh NHS Confederation director Darren Hughes responds to the Welsh Government's statement on a National Care Service implementation plan.

14 December 2023

Responding to the Welsh Government’s statement on a National Care Service implementation plan, director of the Welsh NHS Confederation Darren Hughes said: 

“We welcome the Welsh Government’s National Care Service implementation plan and the commitment to providing care free at the point of need. NHS leaders look forward to the opportunity to engaging with the National Care and Support Office on the next phases.

“Social care services are of critical importance, not just enabling timely discharge of patients from hospital, reducing demand on emergency departments, GPs and other services but most importantly in keeping people well and safe.  

“It’s vital health and social care work in partnership to further integration efforts and move towards a National Care Service. Engaging with key stakeholders and co-producing new models of care with citizens will be essential to ensuring system improvements and the delivery of person-centred care. 

“Unless we move towards parity of pay, terms and conditions between health and care staff, it will be difficult to get to where we need to be. Social care staff are committed and caring professionals and their work must be recognised and acknowledged, not just with warm words but also in their pay packets. This will ensure the two sectors aren’t inadvertently competing for staff and make social care work more attractive for the existing and future workforce. 

“We also welcome the proposal for a national performance and outcomes dataset so we can focus on the challenges and find solutions. 

“However, the financial challenges facing NHS organisations, local authorities, care providers and families across Wales are well-documented. Therefore, to implement the recommendations for the Rebalancing Care and Support Programme and move towards care provision free at the point of need, careful financial consideration will be required - especially if we are to invest in prevention, early intervention and capital infrastructure. 

“In the here and now, with more people needing care than ever before, families, local authorities, care providers and NHS organisations facing squeezed budgets and winter pressures already coming to the fore, there’s concern over the immediate stability of the sector this winter, what this means for patients, the public and staff.”