Hywel Dda University Health Board has published its 2020-2021 report which highlights risks within the service following two years of the pandemic. Whilst some of the risks are low or moderate the most significant number are extreme.
The report states: “Our imaging equipment requires significant periods of urgent and planned maintenance, creating downtime in use, which puts significant pressures on all diagnostic, resulting in delays for some patients in diagnosis and treatment. At the end of March 2021, equipment failure resulted in up to a week downtime, which put significant pressures on all diagnostic services. Welsh Government has agreed funding for one new CT scanner and one new MRI scanner in 2021/22 (out of 5 scanners required). In the meantime, controls and processes are in place to mitigate the risk, such as service maintenance contracts, daily quality assurance checks, and disaster recovery plan. (Health and Care Standards: Effective Care).”
We asked the Minister if given that the government is investing over £8bn in green infrastructure, what is the cost of a scanner or five in comparison and will they be looking at making up the deficit for the health board.
The Minister replied: “On funding for individual health boards that is obviously a matter for the health minister and the budget choices tha she has to make in managing the budgets that the Senedd has agreed. My understanding is that we have invested over £18 million in additional imaging capacity for Hywel Dda this monetary year and next. We can of course provide you with a breakdown of that investment if that is helpful either from us or the health boards that understand that direct support we have provided as a government and how the health board is managing its own resources to address the need for updated imaging equipment. I recognise it is an essential part of health and care treatment for a range of conditions so I am more than happy to make sure we can provide that information to you.”
We highlighted the fact that a summary of the risks identified as having the potential to impact delivery of essential services have been exacerbated due to COVID-19. We hear of insufficient laboratory testing capacity available to meet the significant rise in demand for COVID-19 tests. The public being unable to book testing locally, if at all, and delays of up to 10 days for test results. Serious implications for the TTP programme. We hear of an overwhelmed NHS and social care system and the impact on the quality of care provided, significant clinical deterioration of patients, delays in care and poorer outcomes, increased incidents of a serious nature relating to ambulance handover delays at the front door and delayed ambulance response to community emergency calls. We understand from the report that some of the items mentioned in the risks have been resolved or mitigated but many remain.
We asked if the Welsh Government would be scrutinising these reports to see what lessons can be learnt and what can be done to help mitigate the existing high risks within our health service
He said: “Annual reports are helpful to both to look backwards to understand the risks that we have had and how they have been managed but also to inform future planning. In particular at this time of the year. I was a health minister for seven successive winters and I know it is a really challenging time. But actually the report looks back through the Covid pandemic at some of our most difficult times when the health and care systems are under tremendous strain and you’ll remember the requirements we all had to live through the measures we had to take to keep each other safe. But throughout that there were people in our health and care system who were going in every day to work under tremendous pressure. So it is no surprise that it sets out some of those very real challenges and how our health service had to change and alter to be able to cope with the demand that was coming in.
“We are now seeing it having to cope with the demand that is coming in in post pandemic as we reach the end stage of it. So that is why the Health Minister Eluned Morgan has set the help that is already being invested to help deal with the backlog. The further help and support for urgent and emergency care and how we will work alongside health boards to understand what we can do to further support them. I know being a health minister is not an easy challenge. It is not a straight forward challenge being a Chief Exec on one of our health boards either.
“We need to be able to work together to support our staff and equally support the public with the health care need that we know that is coming towards us to try to manage that as best as possible and to address the backlog. The Health Minister will of course be setting out more of those plans as we move to the future and of course the budget that we published does set out that we continue to invest heavily in the future of our health and care system exactly as I expect the people of Wales expect and exactly as I suspect the Llanelli Online readers and viewers expect too.”