The NHS in Wales will try to ‘maintain a range of NHS activities’ during the second peak of Covid-19 rather than stopping routine services, its chief executive has said.
During a press briefing today, NHS Wales chief executive Dr Andrew Goodall said it was ‘inevitable’ the country would over the next week see the level of Covid-19 infection reach the same high point as in April.
He said that did not mean the NHS would run out of capacity, but said if the virus showed no sign of curtailing in the following weeks then ‘inevitably the NHS in Wales would get to a point where it does become overwhelmed’.
However, he said it was hoped that in the next two to three weeks the country would see the impact of the country’s ‘firebreak’ lockdown, in place from 23 October to 9 November, plus earlier local restrictions.
He noted that tougher restrictions in March, which saw elective operations cancelled, were in part down to NHS staff needing time to carry out training and make preparations to tackle the virus.
The NHS is ‘in a different situation’ this second time round, he said, meaning services should continue as far as possible.
Dr Goodall said: ‘Our plan is to continue to respond to coronavirus pressures in the NHS, maintain emergency services and as much NHS activity as possible, for as long as is possible.’
‘We want to ensure the NHS can balance its emergency response alongside services we have gradually restored.’
He later added: ‘On the numbers, if things carried on going as they are, inevitably the NHS in Wales would get to a point where it does become overwhelmed.
‘But my discussions with chief executives in Wales and also with other professional bodies is a wish to make sure that as far as possible we can maintain the range of NHS activities rather than just revert to where we were in March when we stepped away from routine activities.’
The head of NHS Wales also said he wanted to pass on his ‘personal thanks’ to health and care staff for their work, while acknowledging they had had ‘little or no respite from pressures over recent months’.
GPs have made ‘extraordinary efforts’ to support patients’ case and treatment, he added.
When asked about the possibility of a vaccine against Covid-19 he said there are ‘good examples, both in the UK and internationally’ that are expected to be available ‘shortly’.
He said it would be given to vulnerable people and health and care staff first, but also warned it would take ‘some months’ to administer the first cycle.
He said: ‘There are now some good examples both in the UK and internationally of vaccines that we do expect to be available shortly.
‘We as a minimum need to ensure we have preparations that are able to take place, so that should the moment come where someone says a vaccine is available, we know we can roll it out pretty quickly.’
It comes as Pulse has revealed a new DES is set to be announced imminently for practices and primary care networks to start administering a Covid vaccine from the beginning of December.