The Royal College of Nursing has welcomed a £43m investment over the next year into improving access to primary care in Wales and moving services into community settings.
The Welsh Government’s primary care plan, published in 2014, set out a vision for enhancing primary care services, with more care planned and provided in the community.
“It is essential that health services in Wales develop and provide care that best meets the health needs of the population”
Health minister for Wales Mark Drakeford said earlier this week that the £43m primary care fund for 2016-17 included £26m for health boards to help implement local plans to achieve these goals.
In addition, £10m is being made available directly to 64 primary care clusters to plan and provide services for their local communities.
The investment – which builds on the £6m allocated to clusters last year – will allow them to develop further and build on work to bring multi-disciplinary teams together to deliver care in or close to home.
Additional allocations include £3.8m for a national programme of projects to look at new and innovative ways of planning, organising and delivering primary care services.
Meanwhile, there is £720,000 to support joint work in Aneurin Bevan and Cwm Taf health boards to reduce cardiovascular disease risk, £500,000 to expand a scheme allowing GPs to combine their role with research, and £428,000 for schemes to treat wet age-related macular degeneration outside of hospital by four health boards.
Professor Drakeford said: “Our vision for primary care is for more services to be delivered in local communities, closer to people’s homes, with care being delivered by a range of skilled healthcare professionals working together as a team.
“The £43m primary care fund for 2016-17 builds on the significant multi-million pound investment we have made in recent years,” she said. “It will focus on service sustainability, improving access and to moving more services out of hospitals into primary care.”
Tina Donnelly, director of the RCN in Wales, welcomed the investment into primary care services but noted that it was essential there were sufficient nurses to “develop and provide care that best meets the health needs of the population”.
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“This investment in primary care will go some way in supporting the development of the general practice and community nursing services,” she said.
“Nurses in these areas require the breadth and depth of the nursing care they provide to be acknowledged and supported through access to education, training and clinical supervision,” said Ms Donnelly.
Alison Davies, the college’s associate director for professional practice, added: “In Wales nurses have been at the vanguard in shifting the emphasis to preventative and primary care. For example, in many GP practices nurses run asthma and diabetes clinics and provide health screening for patients.
“Yet primary care is broader than health services delivered within general practice,” she said. “It also incorporates health promotion and working with communities to enable them to maximise their health potential.”