NHS Wales will receive an additional £40 million to deal with this year’s winter pressures, the Welsh Government has announced.
The money, which the government said will come from its reserves, is in addition to the extra £200 million being allocated to the Welsh NHS for for the current financial year, announced in the autumn.
This additional funding comes as new figures show the country’s accident and emergency departments have had their busiest December in five years.
“The additional £40m means that in 2014-15, the Welsh NHS will have received nearly a quarter of a billion pounds in extra investment”
Data from NHS Wales Informatics Service shows that the total number of attendances to A&E departments in Wales last month was 76,889 – an increase of 2.5% from last year’s 75,049 visits.
This marks a 10% increase from the 69,714 attendances recorded in December 2009.
The figures also show that A&E services in Wales are missing the target of 95% of patients spending less than four hours from arrival to admission, transfer or discharge.
In December 2014, 81% of patients were seen within this timeframe and 92.7% of patients spent less than 8 hours at emergency from arrival until admission, transfer or discharge.
The £40 million will be used to help the NHS deal with the recent pressures being felt across different parts of the health system, said finance minister Jane Hutt, who announced the funding boost.
These pressures have included an increase in A&E attendance, as well as GP out-of-hour services experiencing their busiest festive period since they were established, plus a significant rise in critically-ill patients using the Welsh Ambulance Service.
“In order to further ensure the safety of patients during these challenging periods, NHS staff must also be fully supported”
“The additional £40m means that in 2014-15, the Welsh NHS will have received nearly a quarter of a billion pounds in extra investment to deliver high-quality, sustainable health services,” said Ms Hutt.
She added: “With an additional £295m being invested in 2015-16 - which includes the £70m revenue funding as a result of the Autumn Statement - it means increased investment in our Welsh NHS of more than half a billion pounds over two years.”
The Royal College of Nursing in Wales has welcomed the funding boost, but called for more advance financial planning to deal with future periods of heightened pressure within the NHS.
“This will ensure that the demands on the NHS are met with an appropriate increase in resources - such as improved staffing numbers,” said RCN Wales director Tina Donnelly.
She added: “This investment will hopefully help alleviate services that have been particularly overstretched during the winter period, such as A&E.
“In order to further ensure the safety of patients during these challenging periods, NHS staff must also be fully supported to enable them to provide the highest standards of care possible.”