HEALTH chiefs have made assurances that sufficient planning has taken place to be able to cope with the predicted increase in medical demands this winter.

Winter months normally bring added stresses and pressure to the NHS, due to factors such as the drop in temperature, increased A&E admittances and longer hospital stays.

Given recent winter trends on top of the Covid pandemic and dealing with increasing number of positive tests, the pressure on the NHS this winter is set to be bigger than ever before.

Rob Smith, Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board (BCUHB) east area director and Dr Gareth Bowdler, BCUHB area medical director tried to ease fears that the NHS would struggle to cope.

Concerns were raised about whether the Health Board would be able to deal with the increased pressure in the Wrexham Council scrutiny committee, by councillor Joan Lowe.

Mr Smith allayed fears and stated that changes have taken place to aid the NHS this winter.

"The main change is how we're providing GP practices generally," he said.

"The changes we've implemented over the last year are at a different rate of speed than we've seen previously, in provision of primary care services. That is the thing that is going to help us more than anything else as we go into the winter.

"What I'm talking about is around triage calls and making sure the right person in the team picks up the call rather than always going to the GP and wherever possible providing services in people's own homes rather than travelling for an appointment.

"That is something that was a gradual change that we were working to implement prior to the pandemic but we've accelerated that change over the last 12 months.

"That change is the key thing to put us in a better position to be able to cope with the demand but we do still have an increase in demand.

"I think we're looking at a 20% increase in overall demand for primary care appointments and the system was already stretched before that. So it is very challenged but that's the key change we've put in place to enable us to cope over the winter period."

Dr Bowdler informed that as well as the changes being put in place, the needs of vulnerable patients are being thought of in advance.

"We're trying to identify mostly elderly people who need a bit of a plan before the winter. We're scrutinising all of our high-risk and elderly patients, trying to think ahead about what they might need," he said.

"Those discussions are occurring in what we call MDT meetings in each cluster. That is another thing we're trying to do, to think ahead about what people might need."

Mr Smith added: "Specifically in terms of the winter, there is a usual process of planning for the winter which we engage in and that has an increased intensity this year about making the servies have that investment that they require over the winter period.

"That's not specifically around primary care but around enhancing the community services working alongside the hospital to make sure that wherever possible we can look after people at home.

"So there is a lot of work taking place to make sure we can cope as well as possible through the winter months."