Y Pwyllgor Iechyd a Gofal Cymdeithasol
Health and Social Care Committee27/01/2022
Aelodau'r Pwyllgor a oedd yn bresennol
Committee Members in Attendance
|Gareth Davies MS|
|Jack Sargeant MS|
|Mike Hedges MS|
|Rhun ap Iorwerth MS|
|Russell George MS||Cadeirydd y Pwyllgor|
Y rhai eraill a oedd yn bresennol
Others in Attendance
|Calum Higgins||Cymdeithas Siartredig Ffisiotherapi|
|Chartered Society of Physiotherapy|
|Carol Shillabeer||Bwrdd Iechyd Addysgu Powys|
|Powys Teaching Health Board|
|Dai Davies||Coleg Brenhinol y Therapyddion Galwedigaethol|
|Royal College of Occupational Therapists|
|Dr Anthony Gibson||Bwrdd Iechyd Prifysgol Cwm Taf Morgannwg|
|Cwm Taf Morgannwg University Health Board|
|Dr Karl Davis||Cymdeithas Geriatreg Prydain|
|British Geriatrics Society|
|Dr Yvette Cloete||Coleg Brenhinol Pediatreg ac Iechyd Plant|
|Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health|
|Gill Harris||Bwrdd Iechyd Prifysgol Betsi Cadwaladr|
|Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board|
|Jason Killens||Ymddiriedolaeth GIG Gwasanaethau Ambiwlans Cymru|
|Welsh Ambulance Services NHS Trust|
|Nicky Hughes||Coleg Nyrsio Brenhinol Cymru|
|Royal College of Nursing Wales|
|Pippa Cotterill||Coleg Brenhinol y Therapyddion Lleferydd ac Iaith|
|Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists|
Swyddogion y Senedd a oedd yn bresennol
Senedd Officials in Attendance
|Claire Morris||Ail Glerc|
|Lowri Jones||Dirprwy Glerc|
Cofnodir y trafodion yn yr iaith y llefarwyd hwy ynddi yn y pwyllgor. Yn ogystal, cynhwysir trawsgrifiad o’r cyfieithu ar y pryd. Lle mae cyfranwyr wedi darparu cywiriadau i’w tystiolaeth, nodir y rheini yn y trawsgrifiad.
The proceedings are reported in the language in which they were spoken in the committee. In addition, a transcription of the simultaneous interpretation is included. Where contributors have supplied corrections to their evidence, these are noted in the transcript.
Cyfarfu’r pwyllgor drwy gynhadledd fideo.
Dechreuodd y cyfarfod am 09:29.
The committee met by video-conference.
The meeting began at 09:29.
Croeso, bawb. Welcome to the Health and Social Care Committee this morning. Welcome to Members and others watching in. This is a virtual session this morning, so Members and witnesses are all attending by video-conference. Standing Orders remain as they normally are, and questions and answers can be in Welsh or English. Just before the meeting, we agreed that Mike Hedges would step in if something dramatic happens with my connection. So, thank you for that. I move to item 1. We have apologies this morning from Joyce Watson, and Jack Sargeant is leaving us just after our lunch break as well. With that, I move to item 2 today—. Sorry; declarations of interest—if there are any, say so now. No. Thank you.
Our session today under item 2 is our first meeting dedicated to taking oral evidence from stakeholders to inform our inquiry on hospital discharge and the impact on hospital flow. I should say there is a large pack of evidence that's also available on the public website, which is publicly accessible, to be viewed as well with regard to all the consultation responses for this piece of work that we're undertaking. We've got three sessions today, and this is the first of the three. We've got three witnesses with us. I'd be very grateful if you could introduce yourselves for the public record.
Good morning. My name is Nicky Hughes, I'm associate director of nursing for the Royal College of Nursing.
Good morning. My name is Yvette Cloete. I'm a paediatric consultant and clinical director at Aneurin Bevan University Health Board, and I'm representing the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health today.
I'm Dr Karl Davis. I'm a consultant geriatrician, based at the University Hospital of Wales. Today I'm representing the British Geriatrics Society in my role as the vice-chair for Wales.
Thank you ever so much for being with us. I think this is, certainly, I suspect, going to be a very interesting session for us as well. Perhaps if I can start off with a very general question. Give us an idea of the scale in terms of delayed hospital discharge and the impact that that is having for both hospitals and for patients. You're all welcome to make some sort of general observations on that first question. Who would like to indicate first? If you would like to speak, just lift your hand, or pen, or something up so I can just see as well. Nicky, did I see your hand go up? Lovely. Thanks ever so much. Nicky Hughes.
Thank you, and thank you for inviting us today. There is a huge problem at the moment with flow through hospitals, and one can see that quite easily when going past some of the accident and emergency departments and seeing the ambulances outside—it's quite stark at the moment. We know that, in February 2020, there were 448 delayed transfers of care, and I understand now that's over 1,000, so the problem has worsened. COVID has probably had a part to play in that, but possibly there are other factors at play at the moment as well, with winter pressures.
One of the major issues is the capacity and resources in the community. I suppose the first element is that if we can stop people coming into hospital in the first place, then actually you don't have the problem of flow through the hospital. Sometimes, that's not safe to do and there aren't the resources to do that. So, there needs to be a relook at the resources and the capacity in the community, both in care homes but in community services. There has been investment in community services, but certainly not in district nursing. We have to remember that district nursing is the core to all community services. A lot of other services will offer six weeks, or short term, but for a district nurse, that could be a lifelong impact that they have for that individual.
We really need to be looking at the resources and capacity in the community. We need to consider extending the Nurse Staffing Levels (Wales) Act 2016, section 25B, to be looking at have we got the right numbers of staff within the community and how we can make that happen. We need to make sure that we've got post-registration strategies. Also, thinking about children, we know that we need more children's nurses. So, for me, one of the biggest things, to start with, is to be looking at the resources, both in the community but in care homes, which play a major part in caring for people in the community, often quite complex people, where placements are quite limited.
Thank you, Nicky. And if I ask other witnesses to come in, but perhaps I could also add to the question as well: in our consultation responses, there was a common theme of rushed, inappropriate discharges without support in place. And there was also a number of examples of readmission to hospitals when people have been discharged inappropriately, according to the consultation responses. So, perhaps I could ask Dr Yvette and Dr Karl just to also address that point. Dr Yvette.
Thank you very much. So, I'll probably start off by saying, I'm in the luckier position of paediatrics and the other extreme to Karl, where we're dealing with largely healthy children. And so, in paediatrics, it's not nearly as much of a problem as it is in adult medicine with delayed discharges. We have a very rapid turnover, so we have a large number of patients coming in on a daily basis, going home within a day or two. But there has been a very big increase in the number of children attending accident and emergency post COVID, certainly, so there's an increased demand at the front door.
Paediatrics are very hands-on, so there are very often consultants at the front door, making those decisions and ensuring that patients don't come in. Because if we look at the increased number of patients coming in, if they ended up as admissions to hospital, because we have very limited beds in paediatrics—. Because paediatrics can't put their children onto an adult ward, you only have your paediatrics area to keep those children, so we do need to constantly be making sure that we aren't admitting patients that we don't need to admit.
There's obviously great variation across Wales as to what we have and I can't agree more with Nicky that what we really need are those community nurses, the district nurses. In Aneurin Bevan, we're very lucky to have care closer to home, where we have a team of nurses. We can discharge patients much earlier. As soon as we feel they're clinically stable, they go home and the nurses go in for one, two, three, a week, two weeks, three weeks. We've had patients up to sever or eight weeks, having a nurse going in every day at home, giving antibiotics or checking up on children with respiratory problems. So, getting them out safely with that safety net makes a massive difference to our capacity within the ward.
But, as I said, in paediatrics overall—. In Aneurin Bevan, for example, 66 per cent of patients go home within two days; 92 per cent of them are there for less than four days. But almost always, there will be one or two patients who are there for over eight days. And in Cardiff and Vale, where they have a lot more complex patients because they have all the tertiary specialists there, they will sometimes have patients there for longer and waiting for a more complex package of care at home. And so, it's that joined-up work in the partnerships between social care and paediatrics and our district nurses that is making the difference.
Any opening comments from yourself, Dr Karl?
Thank you very much for asking us to speak. I have so many comments, I have to constrain myself, I do apologise. I'm absolutely on board, as Nicky says, and as we all know, if you could be looked after in your own home, if that service is available, that is far more preferable for the vast majority of problems than coming to a strange, often frightening environment, for older people.
When I talk about older people, I have to remember and we all have to remember the range of people. I currently work on the trauma unit, so I have the joy of working with 84-year-olds who've fallen off their motorcycle or crashed a paraglider—honestly—versus those who are frail and suffer minor falls, but major consequences and major injuries as a consequence. The scale of the problem, I think, is really quite marked. The Lakeside unit that was built through the COVID pandemic is already in quite high usage. We've developed discharge delay units so that there is nurse-led, nurse-provided care, supported by a multidisciplinary team to a degree, for people who really should have been discharged, but the capacity is simply not there for them.
In terms of moving people through the system, it's that whole journey and you've seen in the written evidence statements about admission and statements about discharge and statements about the whole process in between, particularly with older people. And Yvette's small children, I really don't understand as well as older people, but actually we have many shared problems, many shared challenges. So, in terms of the discharge issue around some of the problems, did you want me to talk about that as well?
Hold fire, Dr Karl, because I'd imagine that some Members are going to pick up some more specifics, actually, so that's—. I mean, you set out the problems, and I think some Members will want to dig into, perhaps, some of the solutions as well. So, Gareth Davies.
There we go—unmuted now. Thank you, Chair, and good morning, everyone. I haven't got a great deal to add to what the Chair has already asked in this particular area, other than the working relationship between the NHS and the private sector, particularly in relation to social care, and whether that presents any barriers to a good discharge to start trying to free up the system, really. And whether the relationship is a barrier between your discharge liaison nurses and care home managers. So, just to put that question into context, really. I don't know whether you've got a particular view on that.
Prior to coming to the RCN two years ago, I managed services in the community, and certainly commissioned care from nursing homes all the time. We had a really good working relationship with our care home managers. We were able to have frank and honest conversations about whether the mix of clients within their home would suit certain clients coming in. Obviously there was a commissioning element and an observation of levels of care and safeguarding and all that, but actually, we developed really good relationships with the homes. I'm not sure—. I'm hearing that maybe some of the issues through COVID have maybe shaken that relationship slightly, when we heard of people being discharged but they hadn't had the right tests, or they were being discharged and they were positive and that had a huge impact on the home. So, I think that maybe has shaken some of those relationships a little, and there is some way to go to rebuild that.
You know, with working with the private sector as well, I suppose an additional to that is the working relationship with local authorities as well, because I've seen cases over time where things like retainers are being lost for funding for care homes during people's stay in hospital, and that's obviously been exacerbated by COVID. So, where essentially somebody has had care home funding and that's stopped due to a delay in discharge, is that something as well that you've seen as an issue, this relationship working with local authorities to try and tie in a sort of holistic care package, and whether that's a bit of a block to discharging as well?
Nicky, do you want to come back on that? I don't know if anyone else does.
Yes, thank you. Yes, I have experienced that. Sometimes funding has stopped, or indeed things have changed and the home then say that they don't feel that they can take that person back, which then restarts the whole assessment process, which can be lengthy, particularly if we're talking continuing healthcare. My experience, and I can only talk about my own experience, is that where we have good integration, where we have good relationships with social services, with the local council, then things tend to move smoothly and we work really well together and we've seen some of the integrated teams. Sometimes, obviously, with the different funding streams, that can create tension in those relationships, and that can be a barrier sometimes to trying to get people to the right place to have the right care that they need.
Thanks, Nicky. Mike Hedges.
Diolch, Gadeirydd. The first question I'd like to ask is: what do you think is the key barrier to effective discharge? And can you explain to me, or is my experience different, that people go in for operations—orthopaedics especially—where they should come out better, and the operation works, but they end up needing substantial care or discharge into a care home after having their knee or hip replaced, whereas before they'd be able to get around? Is this unusual, and I've just been unlucky with the cases I've dealt with, or is there something happening where people are becoming deskilled in hospital?
Thanks, Mike. I think I might have missed Dr Karl's hand go up in the last session, so if you want to respond to anything on that last question as well, and move on to this.
Be careful. Thank you. Sorry, Mike, just to draw on Nicky's comment about integrated teams; it's so important, Gareth. Social care and the distance that sometimes, as a hospital clinician, you find yourself from that private provider means that there is often uncertainty from the ward staff as to what's going on on the funding stream, on where you are in maybe the allocating and identifying of a care home or the care process.
Historically, I used to speak to care home providers; we used to talk about falls and fall prevention strategies, trying to align the local policies with the care home policies and, of course, they've got their own business models and their own drives, so there is that tension. But we, as health and social care providers, do need to be making sure that the provision that we have is supported positively. And absolutely, as Nicky started saying, at the outset of what happened at the front stage of COVID where we could not test, we did not know what the future would hold. It's hard to go back and remember those times now, but it was a wave of, 'We don't know what's going to come across, and we can't really test for it.' You all might remember how hard it was.
We've got to differentiate between emergency surgery, which is the usual scenario where people end up in so much more frailty. So, often that's a hip replacement as a consequence of a fractured neck of femur, and people who suffer a fractured neck of femur are generally quite frail and we've put into our submissions some of the real issues, but usually when somebody has a minor fall causing a major hip fracture, it's often part of a functional deterioration; it's somebody closer in terms of higher levels of frailty. And so that person is very vulnerable, and post operatively, if they have confusion that's acute or dementia and chronic illnesses, that might make it hard for them to engage with rehabilitation—not because they don't want to, but because they don't quite understand what's going on—or if they have an intercurrent illness.
And one of the things about COVID, as Nicky in the nursing submission drew on very importantly, was around this PJ paralysis or deconditioning, where patients get into a hospital and, as I think you were alluding to, they sit and they don't wash themselves. They let people wash them, maybe because they're feeling ill; they sit in that chair for so many hours of the day, they're not dressed, they're not active and before the—. We, across Wales, had large engagements with the PJ paralysis about making sure our older people were getting out of bed and getting dressed, and of course, that finished—not 'of course'—that just finished as COVID came in, so that learning that we had developed, the importance of that was compromised, because we weren't able to go into the bays of the COVID patients in the same way, the family weren't able to bring in their clothes and, of course, for a short period of time, the nature of the patients in the hospital changed massively. So, if we want to try and prevent deconditioning and functional deterioration, we need to get back to that, and that requires nursing, therapy, integrated staff and indeed, I'd say, medical lead to be encouraging people from the outset to get back, to get better, to do all that they can.
It is worrying, of course—sorry, I will go—where elective patients, who absolutely should go out far better, deteriorate, and that might be in some cases because of complications, some of which can be avoided, some of which can't, prehabilitation, optimising function before surgery, making sure we choose the right people. Because there are some people whose background frailty has got to a point that, whilst it might seem it's the knee or the hip that's the problem, there's much more morbidity in the background. Mike, is that—?
That's exactly what I wanted to hear said. Can I just carry on from that? Swansea council, which you probably know a little about, use Bonymaen House as an enablement centre, so people who come out go into Bonymaen House for a week or so to see if they can enable them again to go back to living in their own homes. I think it's very few people's ambition in life to end up in a nursing home or a care home, and I think the easiest thing for a hospital to do is to discharge somebody to a nursing home and a care home. So, that becomes the battle, between what is easy for the health service and for the health beneficial service, but not necessarily beneficial for the patient. How can we get more enablement being done by local authorities so that people do end up back in their own home? We've all seen examples of this, where somebody goes in with a bad knee and ends up in a nursing home or a care home, and they were muddling along okay at home with a bit of pain, and go to ending up sat in a care home.
I'm just wondering, do you want to bring Nicky in on this point, Mike, because Nicky indicated to come in? Nicky Hughes.
Thank you. Going a little bit back to what Karl was saying, it's absolutely imperative that we get patients up as soon as we can. We know that people lose their muscle mass and things when they aren't able to mobilise as much as they can, and there are number of issues around that. But what we have to remember is we have to have the nursing staff and the access to the multidisciplinary team, as Karl said, to enable those patients, those individuals, to be able to get up, to have the support they can to become independent. We know at the moment we've got a huge staffing shortage in nursing particularly, but I'm sure in other areas—so, having the people working on the ground and safe staffing has to be a key element to that.
I think the reablement is certainly a really good idea. And I think, looking back probably 20 years, the amount of convalescence beds that we had that did exactly this function: people had their acute stay, they then went into a convalescence-type hospital environment, as it was then, and then they went home. But all those beds have been shut or decreased over time, and we've then become more reliant on nursing home or care home environments. So, I think the move to a more reablement model, however that is done, would be really good to be resourced, but, obviously, that's probably the main key, isn't it?
Can I come back and say that my sister-in-law is a district nurse? I don't think I have to declare that, but I think I ought to make that as a point. The final point on this, if I can talk about children services, is that if you got everybody who could be discharged out of hospital in the next seven days, that would not solve the problem, would it? Because, unless you've got a continual throughput, then you'll just end up where you were, you'll just be three or four months down the line. So, really, how do we get that continual throughput?
Oh, don't let me—. I suppose that's true, but also, at the same time, you said it yourself, and Nicky, it's easier to do some things that are not good. It's easier to wash somebody who takes time than it is to encourage them to do things for themselves, and so it's easy to inadvertently help somebody's long-term care needs to increase, instead of taking time to let them decrease over. Rehabilitation in step-down units, I think, has a lot to be said, but it is a worry where there are risks of—. And, of course, we're talking about frail older people. They do get ill again, and sometimes, when we're faced with readmission, it's the trajectory of the background condition, or it was a risk, that somebody was desperately keen to go home. And it is social services much more strongly now, I think, and often very appropriately, cautioning us that home first, that's what we would all—almost all—want. And it's almost always the right—not always, but almost always the right—decision for individuals. One of the problems about the community hospitals is that many of those now, rather than being rehabilitation-focused in the short sense, are dealing with people with very high levels of frailty, some of whom would struggle in a nursing home, whose well-being is challenged on a daily basis, and the most minor deterioration can cause a worsening of the scenario.
I dealt with a constituent who was in for seven days for assessment, and he said, 'If I'd been in another seven days, I wouldn't have been able to go home.' That's the sort of thing that has stuck with me.
But can I move on to children? Are there particular pressure points to be aware of for children and young people?
Shall I bring in Dr Yvette here? Yes, Dr Yvette.
Okay, yes. Thank you very much. Certainly, there are pressure points for children. It's when there's a safeguarding or a mental health issue that then we sometimes need to find placements for them, and you need a foster placement after a hospital admission. Sometimes, they have very complex needs and you need a very specialist foster placement and that can cause delays. Some of our children who get admitted to hospital when they are in crisis with their mental health, they're physically fit and it's not the right place for them, you need large numbers of staff trying to support these young children, and what we really need is somewhere out of hospital for them, and it's really hard to get a tier 4 child and adolescent mental health services placement and a child or young person can be waiting in the hospital for weeks, sometimes months, to try and find that right placement.
What we need is more investment in places. I know that, in Newport, they're going to be opening Windmill Farm soon and that's a really exciting move forward, where there'll be a very appropriate place to be able to have children in a more homely environment to support them to get back home, rather than being in a hospital where they don't see their friends and they don't see their family, particularly with COVID, with limited visiting times, and they miss out on education. And in COVID, we all know that the children are the ones who have not suffered much from a health perspective, but suffered a lot from the loss of education and the loss of socialising. We don't know, in five years' time, what the implications will be for 10-year-olds, having lost two years of normal socialising and normal sporting activities and education. So, there's a lot there that we don't know what's going to happen to children because of COVID.
There's long COVID that's coming in now. Children with chronic pain can sit in hospital for weeks or months, because there really isn't a service for children in Wales with chronic pain; they'll be waiting to get to Bath. I know, with chronic fatigue at the moment and long COVID, that there is—. I think there's a meeting next week to look at cross-Wales solutions. Certainly, in Aneurin Bevan, we've started looking at a pilot for patients with those problems, and they can be patients who can be with us for a while because they really are struggling, but, actually, it's very rare that they're there because of health problems. The children who stay in hospital for a long time occasionally have complex health problems and need health interventions, but, more often than not, when they're staying for a long time, it's because they need that support. And, once again, it's the issue of different local authorities having different levels of support. In Aneurin Bevan, we have five local authorities attached to us. The one that has the most looked-after children has no residential placements available for children, so it's that working together between them, for different local authorities to be able to give what's best for the child, irrespective of their postcode or where they live. It's time to ensure that as well.
There are a lot of other things I'd like to ask you, but the Chair would be really angry with me if I keep on asking them. Would it be possible to write to you with additional questions after this meeting?
Absolutely. Please do.
Is that okay, Chair?
That's very helpful. Thank you, Mike. Rhun ap Iorwerth. Oh, sorry, Dr Karl, did you want to come back in?
I just wanted to say that one of the themes, reading the children's submission as well, was around mental health and that fits across all ages, really. The discharge of older, frail people with primary mental health problems, or even the healthcare of older people with mental health problems, the services are much more constrained in terms of the bed numbers. When somebody does need a dementia-based nursing home, it's a real problem in terms of extending that length of stay and delaying their onward discharge.
Thanks, Karl. We've got some other work coming up later in the year in that regard as well. Thank you. Rhun ap Iorwerth.
Diolch yn fawr iawn, Cadeirydd, a diolch yn fawr iawn i'r tri ohonoch chi. Mae'ch sylwadau chi a'ch tystiolaeth ysgrifenedig yn mynd i fod yn ddefnyddiol iawn, iawn inni. Mae yna gyfeiriad wedi cael ei wneud yn barod at y gwahaniaethau sydd yna ar draws Cymru. Os gallwn ni jest canolbwyntio ychydig bach ar hynny, ydych chi'n gallu rhoi enghreifftiau arbennig o dda, neu, os liciwch chi, arbennig o wael, mewn gwahanol rannau o Gymru sydd yn dangos y gwahaniaeth mawr yna yn y ffordd mae'r gwahanol ysbytai neu wahanol fyrddau iechyd yn mynd i'r afael â'r broblem yma? Pwy sydd am fynd yn gyntaf? Oes yna rywun yn gwirfoddoli?
Thank you very much, Chair, and thank you very much to the three of you. Your comments and your written evidence will be very useful. Reference has been made already to the variations that are there across Wales. If we could just focus a little bit on that for a moment, can you give examples—good examples or particularly poor examples—in different parts of Wales that demonstrate these variations in the way the different hospitals or different health boards are getting to grips with this issue? Who wants to start? Is anybody volunteering?
Oh, don't make me. [Laughter.]
Carry on. Carry on, Dr Davis.
Sorry, Rhun. So, there are some real variations. We were talking with some colleagues—and we're not going to name the area, primarily because I can't remember, but when we have very complex discharge—and we talked about the discharge process, but ones where there's contention or potential involvement of the court of protection—. So, for Cardiff, as far as we've been able to ascertain so far, we have possibly one older person who's at the threshold of a court-of-protection action, probably led by the health service in this case. In other local authorities—they're smaller areas—there are up to eight patients waiting. So, this variation in how we interpret what is some very unclear, I would suggest, legislation on how to apply it—the legislation's clear, but the application at the individual level is more challenging—that leads to very big delays in terms of hospital care, and, of course, leads to that frustration of that person stuck in hospital, at risk of deconditioning, at risk of further deterioration. And whilst the discharge decision has got to be made, those need to be done in a timely—. And we need clarity, I think, for the local authorities, to try and highlight to them when they are at the fringes of the standards, and to have a look at what's going on there, and I know there are some attempts to do that.
The evidence we submitted around fractured neck of femur I think was very interesting. When we were faced with the very first days of COVID, the risks to an anaesthetic, the risks to hospital staff, the risks of operating on somebody with a disease we couldn't treat, with a disease we could barely test for, was extremely high. So, some hospitals almost stopped operating for fractured neck of femurs; others, such as our own, moved the whole system away from the core hospital beds. And you can see in the evidence the marked divergence in lengths of stay. Unsurprisingly, if you've got a broken hip and you don't operate, the patient is going to be in a hospital for weeks.
What came through, I think, strongly from what we did as an unexpected experiment was, by having surgeons who could not operate, we had them available to the wards more often. The physiotherapists who would have been working community services were available to rehabilitate seven days a week. That seven-day-a-week service, that avoidance of five days of team base trying to rehabilitate and two days of minimal team rehabilitation—. The nursing staff on the weekends will do what they can, but we don't have extra nurses to fill the backdrop. We don't have as many physiotherapy staff on the weekend. That makes a difference. So, across the whole of Wales, we saw variations in how those additional staff were utilised, and the resultant changes in lengths of stay.
And, of course, that wasn't sustained after COVID, but we'll come back to that in—
No, it couldn't be. It couldn't be.
We'll come back to that. Nicky Hughes.
Thank you. One of the fundamental differences across Wales is the district nursing teams going back to district nursing. Certainly, where I worked in Cardiff, we had a 24-hour service, so providing that care throughout the night as well, which is absolutely essential. But we know across Wales that that's not always the case, and we had patients who were on the border who particularly had palliative care needs, which also are differing across Wales. It's very difficult when you've got somebody on a border and there's, sort of, 'Whose care is it?' if you've got all different services. And in fact, I know one patient, we had three different services going in just to get them—from different areas as well—to give them the care that they required, and that's not continuity of care for that individual.
I think the other thing that is really important, alongside the discharge liaison team, is the fact the ward manager needs to be leading on board round, leading on discharging, being aware of the patients on the ward. Even before COVID, and I appreciate COVID's been a particular issue, we saw that, often, ward managers weren't supernumerary; they were part of the numbers. That's got worse during COVID—quite rightly, we need to focus on patient care—but, actually, unless you've got that leader who has that ability to step away and have some supernumerary time to really drive this through and drive everybody's pathway, then that's really difficult. So, supernumerary status across Wales for ward managers or ward sisters is really key, and I don't think we've got that consistency at the moment.
Okay. Dr Cloete, what makes one area good and another bad at quick discharge or effective discharge?
I think it's very similar to what Nicky just said there, and I can't emphasise enough how useful it is when we have a nurse in charge and a patient flow co-ordinator who are supernumerary and you can have that constant discussion, feeling that the transport's going to happen quickly for the patient once the decision is made. Again, the community nursing, the district nursing, the care-closer-to-home team have made an incredible impact when, with combining Nevill Hall and the Gwent hospital into the Grange, our bed numbers in paediatrics have gone down. We've seen more patients at the front door, and yet our number of patients in the ward is less, and that's largely because the community and the care-closer-to-home team, although we were thinking about it before COVID pushed it much more quickly because of visiting times—. We wanted to get patients home more quickly and safely, and so the care-closer-to-home team has had an incredible impact on keeping patients at home safely, because consultants wouldn't send a child home if they weren't sure the child would be safe, and having that reassurance that the nurses are going in once or twice or three times a day to see their patient makes a massive difference. Certainly, when we were gathering the information for today, other health boards have said they don't have that and that does mean that they aren't able to get patients necessarily home as quickly. So, the two things, I'd say, are having nurses in the community and having the supernumerary nurse on the ward—they are massively different.
You mentioned there that, in preparing for today, and we're really grateful that you have clearly put the work in, you have gathered evidence from across health boards. The three of you represent organisations that work nationally. How confident are you that you as organisations and that we all have a handle on what's happening right across Wales so that we can really pick up on those examples of good practice? Bronglais in Aberystwyth being really good at quick discharge and low mortality. There are other good examples. Are we able to learn and pass on that good practice?
I do think we can do more of that. Certainly, what COVID has pushed forward, which has been great, is that the leads across Wales for paediatrics meet once a month now. We needed to do it initially because of COVID, and we've all agreed it would be an useful thing to continue, and once the focus can move away from COVID, we'll be able to look a lot more at good practice and share that. We've already had discussions on various things, and people have said, 'Oh, yes, I'd love to pull that in—what Swansea are doing,' or 'I want to pull that in from Bangor.' So, there's that happening already, but certainly I think we can do a whole load more of that, going forward.
So, BGS isn't really statutory, but we're there as representatives of interested professionals, and multi-professionals, with nursing besides. So, our primary tool here is around our learning and our education. We have managed to maintain our meetings, and also that networking and those conversations, because we're not a huge specialty in terms of numbers in many ways, but we're significant in terms of the reach that we have. So, a lot of our learning, sharing and spreading of good practice is through our own meetings, is through presentations, and presentations at national and academic meetings of neighbouring initiatives, and often those are presented first internally so we can check and work with each other on those.
Should there be, though, a more explicit effort to get other hospitals, health boards to emulate what Bronglais is doing? I accept that different communities have different characteristics and so on, but if we have one really good example there, well, everybody look at them and see what they're doing.
Yes, I think we should, and within a service as huge as the health service, trying to get that success message to the right people within the right building—. I think of how many messages I get each week that are not relevant to me. Yvette has an important job, but I get messages about what's going on in paediatrics, and it's going to cause fatigue because I can't read and deal with all of those. So, there is some shared learning, don't get me wrong. So, it is important that we have a strategy that involves the sharing of excellent practice, and maybe even, dare we say it, highlighting where good ideas just don't work, because there's a lot of those in medicine. It seems a good idea, and then you'll see it resurface—I'm old enough now to have seen it resurface five years later—and have to say to somebody, 'That's exactly what we did, and it didn't work. Please don't do it again.'
And we're all encouraged to innovate all the time, of course, and come forward with new ideas. Dr Cloete, you wanted to come in.
Yes. I think it's always data—you need data and you need that information being gathered and held centrally so that you can compare and contrast. But then you also mustn't use the data to punish. You mustn't decide, 'Well, they're doing really well.' You're going to have to look, if they're doing not so well, at what's the difference. If it's a different population group, different geography, different deprivation status, there are going to be differences, but you do need to learn from each other. So, you need to find out what is Bronglais doing that's good, what's Bangor doing, what's Swansea doing, or Cardiff, and sharing that in a forward-thinking way. Similar to Karl, we have the Welsh Paediatric Society meeting that runs twice a year, where we also present lots of work, and we now have this monthly meeting for the clinical leads to share work. And then, I guess, the best of each specialty can then be shared with other specialities. But, like Karl says, our inboxes are full—we can't take everything from everyone, but it would be really good to have a central way of sharing that, and the ones that are impactful and can be spread to other areas should be spread.
Yes. And the last word on that one to Nicky Hughes.
Yes. I agree with everything that's been said, and I think, quite often, what happens is individuals or teams have really good ideas, sometimes money is put into that, and you see really good outcomes. We know the Buurtzorg model in the community has been trialled as well. But, actually, how do we get it from that small team or that individual who is really passionate about it and leading it to a truly sustainable, embedded model across Wales? Quite often, we see money put into something, we see the benefits, those individuals then move on or something happens, and all that good work is lost. So, I suppose, going back to what Karl and Yvette are saying, 'Have we got a strategic approach to this where we've mapped out what's out there, we've mapped out what's good, what's working well, what's working for the public and for our patients, and actually how do we streamline that and get that right across Wales?' Obviously, as you've quite rightly said, Rhun, different areas have got slightly different issues and they may implement it in a slightly different way, but how do we actually look at that more strategically and get it actually embedded and sustainable?
Could I ask for one short answer from Dr Davis on one other thing? On the good practice during COVID in Cardiff and Vale, you said, 'Yes. Well, it had to end. We couldn't sustain that long term.' How frustrating is it that when you do find something that really works you're not able to roll it out long term basically because of a lack of resource? Is it acceptable, really, that we let that kind of thing go?
What can I say? It's devastating, because we've known in our hearts, haven't we, that seven-day working makes sense. We've got the evidence that is makes a difference from previously. We've got the evidence reinforced now. But, of course, the staff that we used to do this were the ones that do prehabilitation for knee surgery, and they're the ones who rehabilitate the patients after their electives. What we did was have a massive availability of community staff from therapies who are not now able to do that—they can do some other role. So, absolutely, but it's around that investment and staffing numbers. We don't quite have the right numbers of staff, we don't have the right numbers of nurses, and the cost of that is going to be huge. So, we have to find a way to work as effectively as we—. Sorry, you wanted a short answer. I'll stop.
No, that's great. I can feel the beginnings of a recommendation coming there somewhere, Chair.
Thank you. Yes, absolutely, Rhun. Jack Sargeant.
Diolch yn fawr, Cadeirydd, a bore da, pawb.
Thank you very much, Chair, and good morning, everyone.
Perhaps I will try and just take that recommendation out shortly and prise it out of you, Doctor. But before I do, can I just touch on communication, before we do move on to workforce? I'm picking up a common theme here. The RCN, in their written evidence, said that,
'There is a lack of consistent communication across professions and between health, social care and third sector organisation which adds to delays'.
Age Cymru go on to say there is poor or no communication with next of kin. They also then further add that the common thread, through poor practice, is poor communication. Two weeks ago, we were sat here in committee looking at the other end of the scale on waiting times, when we said and we heard evidence that suggested that health boards, perhaps, should be more open and transparent with regard to communicating directly with patients with communication. At the start of this year, we debated in the Senedd a health matter because of flawed communication policies within Public Health Wales, and I just see the common theme here is clearly comms. Are there structures in place, or do they need a complete overhaul? Or is it something else—am I picking up the wrong end of this stick here? Are there, perhaps, workforce—? Do they not have the time to communicate effectively? I don't want to seek blame, I just want to try and find a solution, because there clearly is a theme right throughout healthcare at the moment, and that is comms. I appreciate that's quite a big question, but I wonder if someone does have an answer to that. Nicky, you wanted to come in first.
Yes, I think, over time, we've put in posts like the discharge liaison nurses to try and assist this. We have a problem, so we build another team, usually to help that. It could be seen as positive, it could be seen as otherwise. The role of the discharge liaison nurse is critical, and they take on, particularly for the complex discharges, quite a lot of this work. They are the conduit where you've got integrated teams where health and social care are sitting together during that. Obviously, then, that's a more seamless area. But we have to remember that the majority of more simple discharges should be undertaken by ward staff, by the staff nurse or hopefully the ward manager would have some input as well if supernumerary. It would be the staff nurse looking after that patient, who knows that patient the best, to be able to communicate that out. But again, back to: have we got enough staff on the ground to be able to undertake this? Do we spend an hour on the phone trying to chase lots of people, trying to co-ordinate everything, or do we look after the person who's really ill? And we have to make sure that that's our priority.
So, I think, sometimes, some of the simplest things that could be done in 5 minutes get lost because that individual has other priorities within the day and we haven't got the nurses on the ground—we know about vacancies and the retention issues. But also, we can't underestimate how much time it takes to try and ring people, to try and get other people, and we're asking registered nurses often to be the person that rings pharmacy to chase up the medications, to ring to make a referral to a physiotherapist. Are they the right person to be doing that initial referral? Yes, they know the patient most, but if they gave some basic information, could more of an administrative post do that? So, I think we have to look at whether the right people doing the right jobs. In an ideal world, yes, your registered nurse that would know that individual would do it all, but we're not in an ideal situation. We haven't got that ability, and things do get lost in translation, particularly referring out to district nurses, because we have to make sure that the right information follows the patient. So, if a patient's being discharged to a district nurse and they've got, for instance, a key safe outside the house, unless that district nurse knows the code to that, they can't get in to that patient. So, some of it's fairly basic, but quite easily missed when you're very, very busy and looking after lots of patients.
I think Dr Yvette wanted to come in on this point as well.
Thanks. I'm sure Karl will want to too. In healthcare as, I suspect, in every sphere of life, communication is such a massive thing. I think we need to think of communication at three levels. There's communication of individual—. So, as Nicky said, speaking to the patient, getting the patient home. There's communication between specialities within healthcare, between the health boards and healthcare, and between healthcare and the other sectors. At all of those levels, there are problems. So, in the first instance, during every patient contact, discharge should be part of the discussion—'You'll be able to go home when the child doesn't need additional help with feeding, doesn't need oxygen, and we think that's going to be one day, two days, a week'—so they can start planning. The day before you think—or depending how much time they need—start planning, start thinking about discharge, start getting everything in place, and have a checklist to make sure that's all done.
But then there's communication between specialties and between health boards. As Nicky said, you can spend hours trying to find the right person to speak to. There's something simple called Consultant Connect, which the GPs can contact in individual specialities easily, but only some specialties and some health boards are piloting that. So, that's not easy. Once everyone's carrying that, and you can at the press of a button get the right person who's on call that day, you can speak to the right person first time. Within other sectors, there are so many different local authorities, everyone does things slightly differently, it's a slightly different system to get hold of someone, and all of that adds to the communication. You already have so many things that the doctors and the nurses are having to do, constant new problems, and then they're having to spend their time trying to find the right people to speak to, and forget to say the things they need to, and things get forgotten along the way, and very important information isn't passed on, and that's where it all falls down.
Jack, can I just ask whether you've got any further questions? Any last questions, and I'll bring Dr Karl Davis in if you've got any final question, Jack.
Thanks, Chair. Because it seems we are not helping ourselves, or not helping the over-tired and stretched workforce that we already have, I was going to ask, perhaps, Chair, as Mike suggested earlier, whether there are any specific recommendations that the witnesses think we could make, and perhaps they could form that in some words that we could take forward as a committee after this session. I think that would be helpful. And it's worth noting, Nicky, that you have said in your report you want the Welsh Government and NHS to promote discharge liaison nurses to hopefully address some of the topics there.
Karl, if I may, just on my final point there, try and prise that recommendation you were getting to. On Rhun's question you were saying that we don't have the right number of staff; that's, again, a common theme right throughout. But is there a way we can equip the current workforce to deal with situations better? We do have to acknowledge—. Again, I'm not putting blame on absolutely anyone; the workforce is fantastic and remarkable, and I certainly couldn't do that job, and we have to recognise the situation they are in, and the pressures they are under, and have been under. How can Government and top-level NHS management assist the workforce in discharging patients better and more effectively? Is there a recommendation there that I can try and get out?
Oh, guys, that's hard. Briefly, Jack, many years ago we had social workers that were often team based, that worked with you, and that made a huge difference. There's a delay towards the tail of somebody's discharge because you have to wait until the person's ready for discharge before you can bring them in. Imagine the family, you've got the relative on the ward, they can barely see them, and we can't really start talking in detail about discharge decisions because that is the local authority's realm and responsibility. If we start making predictions, it can get undermined. So, I would love to have more liaison throughout our hospital admissions with local authorities, communication across the services, and that then eases the communication into that third sector, into the private providers. I think it's so important.
Some of our colleagues might be tired and exhausted, and sometimes it is hard to pick up the phone and talk to a family member, but heavens, it's hard for them to sit at home not knowing what's going on in that building, which could be many miles away. It can be halfway across Wales, for heaven's sake. You need to try and do it, but it is, and can be, quite hard. Sometimes it's easy, but sometimes it's very challenging. It's important there's that leadership within the health service—I'm as likely to pick up the phone and call as anyone else, maybe even answer it sometimes. I'll tell you what we could—
Just briefly there, I'm just going to get some more time in to get Gareth Davies in.
Can I just do one last statement?
No more fax machines. We have just bought a fax machine for the new hospital. For heavens' sake. What are we doing? GPs fax referrals into the emergency unit. I never see it. Why is that not e-mailed to me? Because I can't deal with the emergency information if the emergency information doesn't get to me.
It can't have been a new fax machine, can it? Do they exist? Do they still manufacture them?
We were going to challenge them next to buy a VCR, Betamax, and see if they could do that. Sorry, probably not appropriate for council, but, yes. [Laughter.]
Okay, that is astounding, yes. Okay. Thanks, Dr Karl.
No, not at all. Before I come to Gareth, I just wanted to ask a question I asked at the beginning. I didn't really get time to go into this, but it's quite an important one, and I think Dr Karl Davis may have addressed these points. We had lots of responses to our consultation in terms of rushed, inappropriate discharges without plans in place, and I just want to get your sense of how big an issue that is, from Nicky Hughes and Dr Cloete, and what are the consequences of this, in particular. We haven't got much time left, but if you could just briefly address that, because we missed it, perhaps, at the beginning, and it's quite an important question. Who would like to go on that? Nicky Hughes.
Yes, it is an issue, and particularly when people go home, they haven't got the right equipment, they're maybe not as well as they should be to go home, things haven't been set up so they haven't got the support networks they need at home to support them. And that's when things can degenerate really, really quickly. So, some of the more simple things like incontinence products, or continence products, if people go home and they haven't got those, then that could very quickly spiral into quite a difficult situation. And that might be a very simple thing, but actually for that individual and their family, it's a really key thing. So, I think rushed discharges do happen, we know that people need beds, we know that people are going out as quickly as they can sometimes, but that often means that patients haven't got to the point that they need to to actually be well enough to go home and they often don't have the equipment and support in their own home, and that means that they end up coming back into hospital.
So, rushed discharges, do these occur on some occasions or are they a more significant regular occurrence?
I'd have to pass over to Karl for that, really.
I'll come back to Karl, then. Dr Yvette.
As I said earlier, in paediatrics it's a bit different. We have patients who turn over very quickly, and for the vast majority of patients, the families are well equipped, happy and keen to get them home as soon as possible. So, it's a clinical decision, and more often than not, we can do that very safely at the right time. When you have something like care closer to home, you know you've got that safety net as well. But the challenge in paediatrics is our massive peaks and troughs. So, we can go from having 10 or 20 beds available on our ward to having no beds available on our ward within a 24-hour period when we have a sudden peak of one of the seasonal viral illnesses, and that's when we have more of the rushed discharges, because we don't have the capacity to expand. We have our number of beds and our nurses. We can't nurse a child anywhere other than on a children's ward, and so that's when you then have to balance that risk/benefit and make a decision on getting a child home possibly sooner than you would have otherwise. But, we always safety net, and we try as often as not not to send them home earlier than they need to go, with very specific advice, and they always have open access to come back. And, yes, we do get our re-attenders, and most hospitals have very specific re-attender policies to look very carefully at those patients again.
Thanks, Dr Yvette. And then, Dr Karl, we haven't got much time left, but—[Interruption.] Please, yes.
I think there are some discharges that are rushed, I think there are some that are too slow. I think some of those rushed ones we have to take down and say that those are people pushing for themselves to be taken home, who might sometimes not accept or believe—. And sometimes, especially now when families can't visit, they don't realise how much care somebody needs. As Mike described earlier on, a patient who goes home may need so much more support than they expected. But, there's no doubt that, with complex discharges, the simple elements sometimes get overlooked, and that can be rushed, or it can be not that it was rushed but that an error was made. And I think those two are different. I don't think rushed discharges on the whole are a big issue, and what Nicky's team often pick up are unanticipated problems. So, you think somebody's going to be okay, they're desperate to be at home, and when they get home, suddenly there's a recognition that a need wasn't identified—maybe it could have been, but not always. So, certainly, it's a problem and it is about working together with families harder now.
That's interesting. Okay, we've got about five minutes left, so please be succinct with answers so we can get finished by 10:35, if that's okay with all. Gareth Davies.
Thank you, Chair. I enjoyed the little piece there about the fax machine earlier, and the VCR. I thought it was like a bit of a throwback to the 1980s and 1990s, wasn't it? [Laughter.] When I did work in the NHS, it was deemed to be a safe method of communication, but technology has taken over and there are more high-tech encryption methods than a fax machine.
But, I just want to steer us back to social care, if I may, specifically, and ask—. Could you tell us more about the specific impact of delays associated with social care, and where efforts should be focused to address those issues and to find solutions?
Who'd like to tackle that one? I can see Dr Karl Davis looking like he wants to answer.
I would love to have integrated social worker. I would love social services to have enough social work staff that they could work consistently on individual teams, so you'd get to know them, you'd build a relationship, and they could step in to see the patients, the people, the citizens, early in their admission, liaise and develop plans going forwards. That's my ideal. That's the old standard. Nicky's nodding—she remembers those days just as well as I do. In children's services, I think you still have much more integrated social services. If we can't get the social services and local authority staff working that closely, then the earlier that we can get them, the more sharing of communications—. And, sometimes, doing joint assessments, there's a tendency to want to work in a silo. We need to work together, because this is for the person in the bed. This isn't about how the services are configured; it's about how we get the best together, and we have skills, they have skills, and we have knowledge. And, sometimes, I fear these days we're not working as closely together as we should.
Thank you, Dr Karl. Nicky Hughes.
Yes, I agree absolutely with Karl, and more integration would be really good. But, actually, there's sometimes a lack of knowledge on the ward areas about what is actually out there. Sometimes, there is a service out there, or there is an ability to get something, but there's just not that ability for the communication to be out there to know exactly what's out there so that they could signpost people to different services. Sometimes that's social care, sometimes that's the voluntary sector, but I think, sometimes, social care have put in things that people just aren't aware of. An integrated approach has to be taken; that's the only way to get a seamless service for the patient, and to get them home in a safe and quick manner.
Interesting. One of the solutions locally that Cardiff has got is that we do have local authority, but they're quite junior members of staff coming and monitoring, but it's more of a monitoring rather than a proactive intervention, and I think that's about the resource that they have available. It's good to have the monitoring, but it would be even better to have the intervention earlier. Sorry, Gareth.
Thank you for that. Just to wrap it up and considering everything that we've discussed this morning, quite wide-ranging issues that span quite a few sectors and professions and things, considering all that, what would be the one key message that you'd like to leave the committee with today? That's a question for the three of you to answer individually, what your key message would be leaving today's committee.
You're all putting your hands up. I suppose the message here from us is that there are short-term and long-term solutions, and ultimately, out of this piece of work, we want to make recommendations to the Government, so we're seeking what those recommendations should be for the long and short term. I'll go in this order: Nicky Hughes, Dr Yvette and Dr Karl. Nicky Hughes.
Yes. And we've talked about this a lot, I appreciate that, but one of the fundamental things is about safe staffing levels and having enough staff—whether that's nurses, whether that's multi-disciplinary teams, whether that's porters or whatever—to be able to find out what people's needs are and get them discharged in a safe way. Extending the nurse staffing Act, particularly into the community, into mental health, would be one way of helping to make sure that we've got the right staff to look after the patients.
I expected you might say that. [Laughter.] Dr Yvette.
I think it's improving child health through early intervention and prevention, making sure we have the staff to take care of patients in the right setting, which is often not the hospital, and encouraging and funding more partnerships across local authorities, getting the various local authorities to work together with health, to ensure that we can deliver the right care in the right place for our children, and in the first place stop them coming in by the prevention and improving health inequality.
Thank you, Dr Yvette. And Dr Karl.
Older people have such a range of functional abilities, of physical and mental health needs, and they will be seen in communities and in hospitals by a wide range of specialities. They need care from integrated, sufficiently resourced teams going across that local authority and into the private sector. So, it's about trying to make sure that we have sufficient skill mix, shared not just by specialists but by all of those coming into contact with older people. Yes, expansion of numbers is important, but it's making sure we've got the right services aligned to the needs of the people that they're now looking after, maybe not the ones that originally were making use of those services.
Thank you. Thank you all for your evidence this morning. That's been a really useful session, so we really appreciate your time. We'll send you a record of the proceedings today, and if you want to add to that or add anything further—. This is the first session of a number of sessions that we've got, so if you do have the time to dip in and listen to any other discussions and you want to comment back then please do so, we'd very much welcome that. I think there are a couple of questions that we're going to write to you about separately that Mike wanted to pick up on as well. So, diolch yn fawr iawn, thank you very much, and we appreciate your time today. Have a good rest of the day. With that, we'll take a short break and we'll be back for 10:45, so seven or eight minutes.
Gohiriwyd y cyfarfod rhwng 10:37 a 10:47.
The meeting adjourned between 10:37 and 10:47.
Welcome back to the Health and Social Care Committee. I move to item 3. This is our second session today in regards to our piece of work, our inquiry, on hospital discharge and patient flow through hospitals, and we've got a number of health professionals with us for this session, and I'd be very grateful if you could introduce yourselves for the public record.
Hello. I'm Dai Davies, I'm the professional practice lead for Wales for the Royal College of Occupational Therapists.
Hi. I'm Calum Higgins, I'm the public affairs and policy manager for the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy.
Good morning. I'm Pippa Cotterill, I'm head of the Wales office for the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists.
Lovely. Thanks, all, for being with us. If I kick off with the first question, really, I suppose just some initial views in terms of the scale of the problem when it comes to hospital discharge and the consequences that's having on both hospitals and patient flow as well. But if I could also add, we've had, including yours, a lot of consultation responses, particularly in regards to rushed and inappropriate discharges, and there have been a number of examples presented in that regard. I just want to get a sense of how big of an issue you think that is as well, and ultimately what should be done to address this issue.
So, wide-ranging questions to start with, but that will help to set the scene perhaps for some other Members to come in with more specific questions. Who would like to make a start?
Do you want me to start?
Yes, thank you. Dai Davies.
Yes. So, I've spoken quite a bit to our managers throughout Wales over the last couple of weeks. This period of time is always difficult. January, February, December is always a difficult period for discharge. So, basically, every occupational therapist that's working in a district general hospital has got delayed transfers of care on their caseloads. Most who are waiting for packages of care, they're generally all delayed, so there are quite significant issues. Our therapists are saying that, when people are coming into hospital now, they're actually more frail than they've been in the recent past because of, obviously, the period of isolation. So, the complexity is higher, so that's definitely an issue.
Redeployment is really difficult for allied health professionals, so getting moved away from the actual programmes that are there to improve flow, so that's the discharge to recover then assess—. So, AHPs should be at all points of access, such as accident and emergency, GP surgeries. Sometimes, they've been moved. Lots of our OTs are stating they don't have enough time to complete the 'what matters' conversation. So, under the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014, every patient should have a 'what matters' conversation. So, patients are sometimes not being heard, so they are stuck in hospital when, actually, if they'd had that 20-, 30-minute conversation with an AHP, we could discharge them quicker, with fewer services. We have a few examples of over-prescription of care, and people waiting needlessly as well, so that's a major problem.
And social care is a major problem. So, our OTs that work in social care, the waiting list times are substantial, so that causes two problems. So, it causes problems with emergency discharges from hospital, and it causes lots of problems with people not being seen, so they are more frail and more likely to fall. So, obviously, you want to concentrate on the discharge impacts, you want to concentrate on stopping people coming into hospital in the first place. So those people who are waiting for things like stair lifts and adaptations and then fall, that fills up the pathway. So, there are problems in each pathway, not just discharge, but prevention as well. Frailty is the main thing. So, if you could have some more AHPs in those areas, it would improve circumstances.
Can I add to that, Chair? To give you an idea of scale, the physiotherapy waiting list relates very much to discharge. I know you've had separate inquiries, but people come onto the waiting list with physiotherapy because they're being discharged from hospital, in the main. And to give you an idea of the scale of it, in November, before the pandemic, there were 129 people waiting more than 14 weeks for that physiotherapy; it's now over 4,000. So, that's just off the scale, really, in terms of the increase in waiting times. And that's people being discharged from hospital who then can't access the physiotherapy in a timely manner.
What I'm hearing from my managers and my members is that it's a blockage in getting people out of the hospital to get them the correct packages to be at home. Social care is working at capacity, they have staffing problems and vacancies, and we all know the demands on social care. But that means that you can't safely discharge somebody from hospital. And it's interesting to hear that you've heard of inappropriate discharge from other professions, or other people giving evidence. I've heard as well from members that, in an ideal world, they'd give people better packages, with more support, with more calls per day from social care. I'm hearing that it is something they're having to cut back on to get people discharged in a more timely manner. That then puts pressure on other healthcare professionals who may be doing the community work to go and visit those patients. So, there's a lot of work to be done around those packages people are receiving when they leave hospital, and whether it's appropriate, actually, that they are discharged so quickly. In reality, it's just purely to get people out of the hospital because it's causing a blockage all the way through the pathways, all the way to A&E. And that's something that has been reflected back to us by our members.
Thank you, Calum. Pippa Cotterill.
Thank you. I think, from a speech and language therapy perspective, there are two sides of it, really. It's really about stopping people going into the hospital in the first place, and that's about that community care, and that's not necessarily happening as much as it should be and across everywhere. So, there's both of those. And I think there have been instances where trying to get people out of hospital has been the priority, but that has meant pulling on people who would be doing that work in the community, so that's kind of shifting that problem.
You asked about the scale of the problem, Chair, and that's both in numbers, but absolutely in complexity. So, restrictions over the last 23 months have meant that mental health issues have been raised. So, people are suffering with speech, language, communication needs; whether they have progressive neurological issues that are coming on more slowly or whether there is a sudden onset incident, all of those things are being affected. And as for everybody, social interaction has been affected. They might not be socialising in the same way. But when people are in hospital, socialisation is absolutely affected with everything that's going on, and I'm sure it's the same for my colleagues in physio and OT. That hospital stay has a huge impact, and so it really is about making sure that people don't go into hospital. So, yes, that scale is both number and complexity, and severity.
Thanks, Pippa. I'll come back to you, Dai Davies. In your evidence paper, you talked about discharge procedures not always being followed and that some hospitals were worse than others at this. I wonder if you could just elaborate a little more on that.
It's just the different variations of the model of discharge to recover then assess throughout Wales, and where OTs and AHPs are placed. Generally, where we get the hospitals where OTs and physios and speech and language therapist colleagues are embedded right the way through the process, you seem to get better outcomes then. What the managers feed back is that it's the hospitals where they come to us later on where problems seem to mount—where, obviously, the referral is too late, we don't get to speak to the person as quickly as possible, and, generally, where the hospitals don't have decent relationships with the local councils as well. That's problematic as well. Some hospitals are better than others on that. There are some hospitals where they allow social care OTs to come in and see the patients so that they can move them through. I wouldn't blame individual hospitals—it's just the variation throughout Wales is a major problem and we don't seem to share good practice in relation to the discharge to recover then assess model.
That's interesting on the sharing of good practice. Why isn't that good practice being shared? What needs to happen for it to be shared?
Again, we've got this transformation stuff and the integrated care fund stuff. It's hugely frustrating for us, to be honest, and it's hugely frustrating for our members, especially if you've got an excellent example like in Cwm Taf, with the 'home first' service with OTs, but that doesn't seem to be replicated throughout Wales. The funding models around this transformation stuff are problematic. Actually, the flow through the hospitals shouldn't be on transformation funding really; it should be core funding—do you know what I mean? It's a core process of a hospital system, but too often, these 'home first' services are funded from transformation, from ICF, and they've got little tiny bits of funding for different types of therapists. So, it's always really fragile, and our managers are always worrying about what's going to happen next year. Those different funding packages have different measurements as well. So, they might be focused on the patient, they might have got a discharge, but they also report different outcomes because of the different pots of funding, which is really problematic. Actually, our AHP colleagues, we all think, actually, this discharge process should be core funding rather than transformation, and transformation should be other things. I don't know if my colleagues agree with that.
For the record, they're both nodding. Thanks for that. That's really interesting, thank you. Gareth Davies.
Thanks, Chair, and good morning, everybody. You actually addressed a lot of my questions in your answers to the initial questions, but I just want to use my time really to just perhaps address a little bit further some of the points that you've made. You've set out quite well really what the main causes and the problems and the key barriers are to effective discharges. So, could you set out the delays associated with the current pressures on social care, including things like assessments and care placement packages, and where you think those efforts need to be targeted to address some of these issues?
Calum, I think, wants to kick off on that one.
I'm happy to pick up, because I think I mentioned social care in my first reply. It's clearly down to pressures that they are facing in social care that we can't discharge people as quickly as possible. I mentioned that there's definitely a compromise in the packages that physiotherapists are seeing being given to patients that are discharged, and that's a big worry. At the other end of the pathway, I've got physios in emergency settings, in A&E, who tell me that people who haven't had those packages or haven't had the support at home are falling, having accidents, and there's an increase of those kinds of patients coming through the emergency setting, and they come back into the system again.
A proper discharge package with all the support in the community and through the local authority and joint working is really crucial to ensuring that people don't come back into the healthcare system later on because their problem wasn't addressed properly. I think that comes down to what Dai was saying; we definitely agree, with the way that the funding is set up, that it's different in most health board areas, how projects have been funded through transformation. There's no consistency. One project that works really well in one area might not be replicated somewhere else. It doesn't necessarily mean it's bad somewhere else; it just means that they're not being as effective as has been learnt somewhere where it's gone well. We really want to see the discharge process being consistent and that local authority and health working being consistent across Wales as well, with core funding at its heart.
Pippa, did you want to come in on this as well? I wasn't sure if I saw your hand go up or not.
I would like to, if that's okay, Chair. Thank you.
Okay. Pippa and then Dai next.
Thank you. Speech and language therapists work with individuals and their families and their carers, who could be a variety of people, and the speech and language therapist will develop personalised strategies for those people to manage their speech, language, communication and swallowing difficulties. It's vital that that continues and happens throughout that home setting. As my colleague Calum has said, that's what's important in preventing that cycle of emergency readmissions. So, it is going to prevent the first one if we've got that community care right in the first place, and if it carries on, it's going to prevent further ones after that, so that's very important. I would add to what Calum has said about the funding. Managers are talking about having 0.5 of a post until March 2022. Depending on when that came in—it might have come in in April 2021 or it might have come in later than that—does that give us a good opportunity to provide that evidence and then do something about it with the evidence that we have?
Thank you, Pippa. Dai.
There are major problems in social care, Gareth. OTs are quite a significant workforce in local authorities. There are two roles that they do: obviously the calls come into the council that people are struggling at home, and there's another thing that we do called right-sizing care. That's working with our social work colleagues and going out to visit people who have got packages of care and making sure they've got the most efficient package of care possible. That's been quite delayed over the last two years. When you get a package of care from hospital, you shouldn't have that forever; it should always be consistently reviewed. But that doesn't seem to have happened as much over the last couple of years. For example, an OT with a social work colleague going in to see a two-handled call can maybe look at the equipment they've got and change that to a one-handled call. That, then, reduces the need of that social care provider to have two people visiting that house.
So, it's those sorts of problems we've got: obviously, the recruitment issues in our social care providers, and the reviews of the packages of care that are not as frequent as they should be. Maybe there is over-prescription of care, so it's not efficient. We need our OTs to be able to work with our social care providers and care homes to ensure that the equipment they're using and the type of services and amount of care they're using is as efficient as possible. Unfortunately, the waiting list is so severe at the moment just to get people out of hospital, that it's been not neglected, but been unable to happen because of our low staffing levels. So, it's not as efficient as it could be, because the right-sizing care model is really, really good, and we've reduced lots of packages of care, so that needs to start happening again.
Thanks for that. I just want to explore, really, the communication between the professions and whether you see that as a barrier to delays. Because in my experience of working in the NHS—. I worked in physiotherapy until about 12 months ago, and in my experience, when you're working in a hospital setting, there's a lot of cross-over between the AHP professions and there's a lot of joint working. So, are there communication issues across the professions? And that's probably even going into nursing, medicine and the whole package. Is that a problem, or is it less of a problem than what we initially think?
The best practice we've seen in the pandemic has actually been when this has happened, when the multidisciplinary teams have been set up, sometimes at haste, to deal with avoiding admissions into hospital. There were lots of examples of that across all health boards, to be honest, where the AHPs were leading in that area as a team. It was highly effective and we'd like to keep that. That's a model that we have been pushing for a long time. The pandemic accelerated that change, and it was good to see that interdisciplinary working. The communication of the teams with AHPs in leadership positions was really key to meeting that need of the patient. The AHPs—we say it all the time—have a very holistic view of a patient; it's not medicalised, it's the person as a whole and their needs to carry on living to their best of their ability and to do the things they want. So, I think the AHPs are in a key position to be able to deliver that kind of care in the community to patients, and definitely there are very good examples of team working. Again, it's about consistency; it's about getting that core funding for the future, rather than letting it slip now post pandemic and we think everything is fine. It should be here to stay.
Thanks. I'll just bring Jack in quickly. He wanted to come in with a supplementary.
Diolch, Chair. Calum, it's great to hear that there are some good examples of communication and good practice across all health boards, and you've made a recommendation there about the funding, the core funding of the service, to make sure that carries on. Can I just ask you, then—? You mentioned all health boards—how was that good practice shared between health boards, or how is that communicated through health boards? Because we often see that it's not. It might be in Betsi, but it won't be in Cardiff, and vice versa. Is that practice taking place, or is it four different sets of good practice?
That's a great question. The learning is happening, probably not to the best it could be. The one thing I really want to point out as a positive is that we've had AHPs now being put in leadership positions, seconded to Welsh Government, seconded to HEIW. That's not only been recent, that's been during the pandemic and continuing now. So, there are now key people who are looking at this work, who are drawing things together across Wales, but that's a relatively new thing. It's a positive step, definitely. We want to push for that learning to be continual, for it to be set up as a business-as-usual in Welsh Government that we have these cross-Wales positions that carry on the learning consistently. Before that, it was really reliant on our managers talking to each other in their Welsh committees, and they're pushed for time. They were always managing their own health boards and getting on with their own jobs. But there are now people dedicated to doing some of that learning, which is definitely positive.
Diolch yn fawr.
Thank you. Dai, you wanted to come in.
Obviously, I won't repeat what Calum said. On the communication between health and social care, there's some good practice and there's some not so good practice. One of our therapists has explained it: especially with the Welsh community care information system, it's good that they're all living in the same house now, but they're still in separate rooms. So, there are still some problems with how the systems are set up in what can be looked at and what can be shared. There are some areas where it's not so good. We hope that the WCCIS system actually could improve the communication between health and social care, which is problematic at times. You've heard this countless times in countless evidence sessions, so that still needs to improve. And the same as Calum, the good practice is generally shared through managers, through our informal groups, and I know they've got this digital health authority in Wales that just got set up last year, so hopefully that will improve systems of communication.
Any further—? Sorry, Pippa.
Just to say I think that multidisciplinary working, which comes with AHPs, but also with our colleagues in nursing and other areas, does take time to do. It takes time to do that communication. And yes, absolutely, joint assessments of patients are very, very valuable. Professionals get things from them, but the patients do get a lot from them. That takes time to organise and time to do. If you've got a 0.5 post and there's a physio doing a 0.5 post and they never have a crossover, then that's not going to happen in the same way. So, those logistical operational aspects are also very, very important. Thank you.
Thank you, Pippa. Gareth, any further questions from you?
Yes. Thanks, Chair. I suppose my last question is a bit of a niche one to Pippa around neurorehab. In my time in the NHS, I did quite a lot of training around this specifically, and have probably got an educated guess as to why that's such a significant cause of delays in discharge. I imagine it's probably down to the acuteness of neurorehab and some of the complexities that surround the problem. Because, a lot of the time, it's people who have had strokes or acquired brain injuries and need quite a lot of intense rehab, which can be intensified better in a hospital setting, rather than in the community where you get discharged and you might be lucky to see an allied health professional once or twice a week, whereas in hospital, it's a daily programme. Am I right in saying that, or am I missing something out there? Can you tell us a bit more about that issue with neurorehab?
Who would like to address that? Pippa.
Thank you. Absolutely. Yes, it is a huge problem. There are a lot of people who are suffering huge consequences from examples such as you've given, Gareth. Obviously, if they need that medical attention, then, absolutely, that's where they need to be. But a lot of services are hugely focusing on that community element, because we know that if somebody is medically fit and they can be at home, if they have the right environment around them, then that's going to be better for them. That's going to give them the environment that they're used to, that they're comfortable in, as long as it's safe, and often the people that they would communicate with. We know, where there have been restrictions on visiting in hospital or people have been doing things over screen, such as we're doing today, with family in hospital, that's a very different communication from a face-to-face discussion that you'd have with a family member. So, absolutely, we want them to be in the setting that they can be, as long as that's safe to do.
There should be no reason why community services cannot be provided two or three times a week, if that's what's needed. If that's the package that's needed, then absolutely that should be provided. Yes, it takes time. It takes a lot longer to drive to somebody's house than it does to pop up to a ward if you're based in that place, and that's why we need to think about the resource that's required. And, yes, it may be something that's progressive and/or long-standing, or maybe it might be that sudden onset—the strokes that you talked about, Gareth. And that rehab that speech and language therapy can provide in putting in place communication, whether it's indicating 'yes' or 'no' in answer to a carer, or having a conversation about the thing that you want to talk about the most in the world today with a friendly face, that's absolutely vital and that's what speech and language therapists can do.
There have been some increases in funding, which I appreciate is a little bit different from the question that you've asked, Gareth, when it comes to neurorehab and neuropsychiatry, from a speech and language therapy perspective. But I guess it's some increases in funding and making sure that it's consistent, and all the things that we've talked about regarding funding also apply to those as well. Does that answer your question?
Yes. I don't know whether Dai or Calum might be able to expand on that from an OT or physio perspective, just to broaden the conversation.
Pip answered that really quite fully, actually, and they're the same sort of issues we have in OT. Obviously, OT's quite an important aspect of neurorehab and neuropsychiatry. It's getting that rehab into the person's home where they live, that's the main thing, because that's the place they're going to thrive and be able to assess. So, the funding has been good. Our OT's have appointed generic therapy assistants or physio OTs. Speech and language therapy assistants seem to be helping, but funding's always an issue. So, it's how that model is funded and how quickly it goes into core funding, and the managers are not waiting for the next year to see where that funding is. So, Pippa's points were all really good.
I agree. It's all about consistency and funding across Wales.
Thank you. Thanks, both. Mike Hedges.
Thank you. Diolch, Cadeirydd. I was going to talk about rehabilitation. We've talked a little bit about it already. I don't know if you heard the evidence from Dr Davis in the session before you, but he agreed with me on something, which is that people get deskilled in hospital, they get dressed, they get sat in a chair and they rarely, certainly during COVID times, but at other times, they have very little conversation and they can become deskilled. What about—? What is happening regarding getting people rehabilitated before they go out? I know that Swansea, at Bonymaen House, has an enablement centre where people then start making their way through to being enabled so that they can actually go home, rather than the simple answer of sending them to a nursing home or care home.
Yes. I know that therapists feel quite despondent about seeing people wasting away in front of their eyes on the hospital wards. There's an issue with facilities, so our OT kitchens, OT bedrooms, physio gyms are being reused, so they're not able to have that therapy that they would have, which is really problematic. Like you said, they should be seen at home before they get admitted, so OTs, physios, podiatrists are based in primary care locations, like GP practices and stuff, so they can pick up people who've got some frailty issues and get the community resource teams to go and see them, to be perfectly honest. And then, it's ensuring that we follow the discharge to recover to assess. So, if you go to A&E and you could be sent home, you should be sent home with a rehab package there, then. So, making sure that, when people access the health service or the social care service at different times, actually, that's the time you start the rehab journey, not two days before they're going to get discharged.
And actually, at the moment, they're starting to open these intermediate care wards and stuff; there's only a finite number of OTs and physios, so we've really got to look at those wards and make sure that, actually, there is an appropriate level of care that's happening on those intermediate wards. You can't just shift them on from the district general hospitals into these intermediate wards and not have a proper rehab package there. So, they're the sorts of issues. But facilities are a problem at the moment.
I'll agree with that. We raised it in the last inquiry when giving evidence. I won't go into too much detail, but we've definitely seen a reduction in the space available for rehab in hospitals, to the point where you had dedicated space before for stroke patients who were rehabilitating, and at one point, it was being done on the side of the bed in the middle of the pandemic. And some of that space hasn't been returned. That makes the job more difficult for physios or for any allied health professional or social care worker later on in the community, if the person hasn't had the rehab in hospital and isn't in a good enough condition, really, to have been discharged.
So, there is a need, despite our support for community rehab, and we really want to move as much as possible into the community, for a basic level of rehab facilities in hospitals. And there's also a need to have that space for families to come in. And Dai mentioned things like the kitchen space—you'd want the family involved in coming in, seeing the patient and seeing what condition they're in and being able to offer them support. We've not been able to do that in the last couple of years because of restrictions. So, that makes the job again more difficult in the community, when it's transferred to the community. So, there's a definite longer term problem from making the adaptations in hospitals that we had in the pandemic. We need to reassess, really, where that is and try and return as much of that rehab space back to normal to get the best impact for the patients.
We haven't got a nutritionist, I don't think, on this panel, but can I just ask if you agree with me that there's a serious role for nutritionists? Far too many people go into hospital and they tend to eat very little and their weight drops. At one stage, hospitals would weigh people when they came in and before discharge, but I think the results were so poor they stopped wanting to do that. But a role for nutritionists to ensure that people who are going out are well fed and fit. Leaving aside any of the things that you can do, if somebody hasn't been eating and they have substantial muscle wastage, they've got a problem, haven't they?
Sorry. Is that okay?
We can hear you now. Go ahead.
Thank you. Absolutely, and speech and language therapists work very closely with dieticians to look at the nutrition and hydration of patients, both in hospital and in the community, and it is really important. And there are critical periods when it comes to working with people, especially if they've had a stroke, and the rehabilitation that we do, and working with our colleagues in dietetics is absolutely vital. But, again, and going back to what you said before, looking at that closer to home, the move to closer to home is very, very much welcomed. We just need to make sure that we do it in the right way and that it's planned strategically.
Moving on to variations—I'm supposed to talk about variations across Wales—I'd like to ask about variations within health boards: different hospitals having different policies, different consultants working better with GPs and others, different consultants working better with allied health professionals and others. I mean, I'd love to see consistency across Wales. Are we anywhere near consistency within hospitals and within health boards?
Yes, Calum. Please, go ahead.
Back to the space issues—yes, I'd say it was even down to hospital variations, not just health boards. So, you are right: there is some work to be done to get consistency across health boards. But we're lucky, I think, in the set-up we have in Wales that we have managers who represent each of our professions within a health board who we can go to as a point of contact, and they meet on a Welsh level, which is different, maybe, to in England, where you don't get all the managers of physiotherapy meeting in one place. So, that is a positive in Wales. We've got some structures in place, but even then, yes, in terms of dealing with health board facility management, you're talking about several different hospitals in one health board having different approaches.
Thank you for that. I wanted to move on now to where should the allied health professionals be. There's a limited number. I'd love to ask you questions on the workforce, but I'm not allowed to do that; somebody else is going to talk about that, possibly my friend Jack Sargeant. But, really, what I'm asking is: you've got a finite number, where do you want them? In the community, at A&E, in the ward, or, if you're splitting them up between the three, how are you going to split them up? Because, too often—we as politicians are guilty—we start off with an infinite number of members in the healthcare profession, therefore we can put them everywhere. We know we're working within limited numbers, so how do you think it ought to be split up?
Go on, Dai.
We've got policies in place, the 'A Healthier Wales', a parliamentary review that we're meant to be strategically planning towards. So, that is all about moving services into the community and looking at that quadruple aim. And we were fully on board with that when the parliamentary review started, and, obviously, 'A Healthier Wales' came up. So, our AHPs should really be situated in the community more than in district general hospitals, because people shouldn't really be in district general hospitals in relation to the model, if you know what I mean. So, the model of the parliamentary review states that, actually, secondary care should be—you should be just going in there for very complex surgical procedures, and everything else should be in the community. So, the programme's going on, especially the strategic programme in relation to primary care. It's something that we've all been involved with, so getting AHPs to work closely with GP clusters is something that we support, do you know what I mean? And that's why transformation funding was started, that's why ICF is there. It is frustrating to our members that secondary care, as important as it is, seems to get all the focus, but it's a never-ending circle then, isn't it? That's the issue. So, we support the Welsh Government and the Welsh Parliament's view of the parliamentary review, and we'd quite like that to crack on now, after the pandemic has stopped, and get things back into the community.
It's about a shift of emphasis. You're always going to need AHPs in secondary care in hospital. You're going to have physios in ITU dealing with people who've had serious accidents, but it's shifting, then, into preventative work that we can do on people's general health and stopping people with chronic conditions ending up in a position where they have to go to hospital. So, it's about shifting the workforce more down that end, where, historically, they haven't been. So, I think that's the change we want to see.
Thank you. And it's looking at those routes in. How do you contact a speech and language therapist if you've got a problem? In some places, I know that they've installed a request-for-help line, so you speak to a speech and language therapist straight away. It's not about going to the GP and then going somewhere else. It is about being closer to home, so they can phone from their home and speak to a speech and language therapist straight away and things might move on from there, because it's about speaking to the right person at the right time, and doing that in the most timely way. So, closer to home, definitely.
I agree with you entirely, but is it not true since we've had health boards, with primary and secondary care coming under them, primary care has lost out dramatically as a proportion of the budget being spent on primary care? That's a matter of fact that you can check back over the period of time.
The second point is that Dai Davies mentioned policies—brilliant. I can give you an example of a policy, it's a Welsh Government policy, it's the policy of every health board that patients should be able to be helped by relatives or friends to eat during meal times. I can take you to wards not more than 2 miles away from where I am sat at the moment, where they say, 'No visitors during meal times,' and they send the visitors out. So, policies are great, but the operational manager at ward level, actually, if they don't follow those policies, they're the only people that matter on this policy level.
Anybody want to come in at all?
We're part of the evaluation of the social services and well-being Act, and it may be that operational realities haven't caught up with the legislative rhetoric yet, so it's frustrating for our members.
I'll just finish on this point and I don't expect you to answer, but, strategically, management and tactical management can be absolutely right and can be working quite well—they do in lots of places—but you go down to the operational managers, the whole thing falls apart, and if you disagree with me, say you do, otherwise I'll pass it back to the Chair.
There we are. I think, for the record, that all are agreeing with you, Mike. By all means, Mike, come back in after Jack's raised some workforce issues if you want to come back on workforce, but, Jack, it looks like you're asking questions on workforce.
Thank you, Chair. I hope I do my good friend Mike Hedges justice with some questions around the workforce, but just to follow on from Mike there, who suggested where we perhaps move our current workforce. I'm looking at, maybe, how we can equip them better or whether a re-prioritisation is needed. Calum, you mentioned shifting the workforce to preventative measures, and earlier we heard that discharge liaison nurses should play more of a key role, supported by Welsh Government. So, I'm trying to get some specifics, really, in terms of key roles that you see would play an important part in that, on either side, whether that is the preventative side or actually the logistics of discharge, and so on. I'm not sure who would—. I did mention your name, Calum, so perhaps you would like to go first and then we could pass over to our other colleagues.
Thank you, Jack. We're seeing a general growth in the workforce, the commissioning numbers have been very good. We've had an increase in the number of training providers, universities providing courses, I think, for all the AHPs. That means a general growth in the workforce is planned. We really welcome that, and, longer term, the key issue is growing the workforce so that it can be in every healthcare setting. There is a limited number of people at the minute.
But if you're working with a limited number of people, the key thing, I think, is upskilling. You've mentioned extra skills. We have advanced practice roles. First-contact practitioners are a fairly new concept in AHPs—they're like nurse practitioners, for the uninitiated on it. It's about AHPs going up to advanced level, taking prescriber courses, being able to be the first point of contact in a GP surgery and being able to refer then to any other services, just like a GP could. That's a really key bit of development we're pushing in the primary care sector. That, again, means money, core funding, consistency across Wales for those people who want to go down that route of training and development. That's how, I think, you could very quickly upskill the workforce is offering more of those kinds of opportunities, and also supporting the support workers out there in the apprenticeships that they may want to do and upskilling them to provide better care and give them more skills.
So, there are definitely things you can do with the existing workforce, but also the longer term growth is what we really welcome, so that we can go into the other settings and have the number of people we need.
Thanks for that. Before I pass over for other comments—and it's a question to everybody as well—would you agree as well that there's a piece of work to be done on parity of esteem for social care workers with regard to health workers? Perhaps you could maybe comment on that as well before we pass over to colleagues.
Definitely. There needs to be parity of esteem between the professions and also between the social care setting and the health setting, definitely. These days, everything's joint. It needs to have that esteem at a similar level across the board to attract people into social care, as I said, which is where we're really seeing the backlog being caused, it's really in their capacity. So, I think the professions here would welcome that parity of esteem across the board.
Thanks, Calum. Dai, key roles.
So, I know I go on about this discharge to recover then assess model, but that's the model that we work on in Wales. So, AHPs in leadership positions in each of those pathways. We shouldn't just focus on one particular profession; it needs to be multidisciplinary, and must be multidisciplinary-led as well, especially focusing on point zero, which is the prevention, and the one that is keeping people out of hospital. So, really working with the 'A Healthier Wales' plan in relation to upskilling those staff to be able to work autonomously and independently in community settings, but not with a one-profession sort of model, but a multidisciplinary model that meets the patient's needs. So, it's the patient that's the important person, so the services should be based around them.
I know I've said this before, but we have major problems in social care recruiting occupational therapists because they get paid less than their NHS counterparts. So, they go to the same universities, they do the same courses, and then one decides to go and work in the NHS and the other works in social care, and they get paid about £3,000 to £4,000 less. So, that's a major, major problem for our members, to be perfectly honest. But, it's looking at the patient in relation to that pathway rather than looking at a particular profession that is the important thing, and making sure that on each pathway, through the discharge to recover then assess model, there are multidisciplinary processes where OTs, physios, speech and language therapists and AHPs are allowed to be a part of that senior leadership team, to be able to strategically plan that service.
I might be being naive, but can I ask, is that happening, then, or is that something that should happen?
Should happen. It does happen—again, it's fragmentation. So, we would say, whenever the OTs, physios and speech and language therapists are involved, the services are better. Again, there's a cultural issue of respect between professions that still needs to be highlighted. All professions in the NHS should be as respected as everyone else.
Thank you for that, Dai. Has anyone else got anything to add?
Thank you. Absolutely. In thinking not only about AHPs, but the whole wider workforce and the sorts of things that Mike talked about, because it is about the family, supporting them as well, as AHPs, but our colleagues in social care as well. They have a huge role to play in supporting people and their families in things that they can do in everyday life. Yes, it might be advised by a speech and language therapist, but it doesn't need a speech and language therapist to deliver it to that person. Thank you.
Okay. That's very useful. I'll stop there, Chair.
Thanks, Jack. Rhun ap Iorwerth.
Diolch yn fawr iawn a diolch am eich sylwadau gwerthfawr iawn chi i gyd. Eisiau trio crynhoi ydw i, achos trio llunio argymhellion ydyn ni fel pwyllgor, wrth gwrs, a chi ydy'r rhai sy'n ein harwain ni tuag at yr argymhellion yna. Buaswn i'n licio i chi feddwl, os gallwch chi, am bethau y byddech chi'n dymuno fel blaenoriaeth i gael eu gwneud yn syth a fyddai'n gwneud gwahaniaeth rŵan efo'r adnoddau sydd gennym ni ac yn y blaen, ac, o bosib, rhywbeth mwy hir dymor. Gwnawn ni eu rhannu nhw allan, gan ddechrau efo pethau cyflym. Wn i ddim pwy fyddai'n licio mynd gyntaf.
Thank you very much and thank you for your very valuable comments, all of you. I want to try and summarise here, because we're trying to put together recommendations as a committee, of course, and you are the ones who are leading us towards those recommendations. So, I'd like you to think, if you will, about the things that you would want to see as priorities immediately that would make that difference now, with the resources that we currently have and so on, and then perhaps more long term. We can separate them, perhaps, beginning with those swift actions. I don't know who would like to go first.
Dai, if you had to choose one thing or two things that could really make a difference now if they were introduced as changes, what would they be?
To ensure you don't redeploy AHPs away from their core business is the first one. I know there's been lots of different types of pressure on the health service over the last year, but our core function is to make sure people are as independent as possible, right the way through the pathway. So, for health managers and social care managers, it's to really think hard about redeployment as a No. 1 step, Rhun. That would help. So, I think it's almost like turning the tap off for people coming in. So, a real good focus on redeployment.
And the second one then is working to the principles of discharge to recover and assess, because that is a sound policy, and not moving our therapists away from their programmes.
And that's, kind of, longer term, is it? Or is that, again, something that could be done—?
It links in with the redeployment as well. Do you know what I mean? So, let's focus our staff on those areas of flow instead of moving them away from that.
Pippa, firstly, just that snap, quick action that could make a difference.
Absolutely, I agree with what Dai was saying about prioritising, and I'm thinking of the impact of that redeployment on patients, but also on staff as well. So, I think that can't be stressed enough.
I think it is that communication, and it's getting the message across as to what speech and language therapists do and where they do it best, and making sure that we are looking at preventing the admission in the first place. We know that that's the most important thing. So, where we've got people with progressive neurological disorders, and we know that they're going to change, what can we do to make sure that they don't have to go into hospital in the first place? And that's about communication and getting the message out there to the families that speech and language therapists can help them before they get to that emergency situation and having to go into hospital.
Do you put that under 'sharp, quick action', or is that a longer term goal? Because there's no reason, if you move quickly, why that message couldn't get out. It's key, isn't it?
It is. It is absolutely key. And I guess it is a longer term thing, but I think it's something that we need to start doing now, and people will see the impact of that now, so that's why I've put it in the 'now' category.
A Calum, y byr dymor—camau cyflym fyddai jest yn rhoi ffocws wahanol.
And Calum, the short term—those swift steps that would give that different focus.
Creu gwasanaeth cyffredinol rehab ymhob bwrdd iechyd. So, mae gyda chi ar hyn o bryd pulmonary rehab, cardio rehab, pobl yn aros ar ddwy restr. So, os oes gennych chi jest un gwasanaeth rehab cyffredinol ar gyfer pobl sydd eisiau mwy nag un rehab ar yr un amser, gallwch chi wneud hwnna'n eithaf clou.
Creating a general rehab service in every health board. So, at the moment you have pulmonary rehab, cardio rehab, people waiting on two lists. So, if you have one single rehab general service for people who need more than one kind of rehab at the same time, you could do that quite swiftly.
Beth am yr hir dymor? Ble fyddai'r buddsoddiad mawr yn newid cyfeiriad mawr yn mynd i mewn a fyddai wirioneddol yn gallu trawsnewid pethau, ond gan dderbyn y byddai fo, o bosibl, yn cymryd ychydig bach mwy o amser?
What about the long term? Where should the major investment be made, this redirection? Where would that make a genuine difference in transforming services, accepting that it would take a bit more time?
Primary care i ni, so mwy o first-contact practitioners, arian ar gyfer FCPs yn primary care, ac i'r cyllid yna fod yn gyllid craidd yn lle cyllid peilot trawsnewidiol. So, mae hwnna'n mynd i gymryd amser, rwy'n gwybod, ond buddsoddiad yn rhoi AHPs i mewn yn primary care yn y tymor hir.
Primary care for us, so more first-contact practitioners, funding for those FCPs in primary care, and for that funding to be core funding rather than transformation pilot funding. That would take time, I know, but investing in locating AHPs in primary care in the long term.
You're nodding away there, Pippa, to Calum's comments. Any other further, long-term thoughts?
Yes. Just quickly, I've thought of one, if you'd indulge me. Open our facilities back up, so the physio gym and the occupational therapy kitchen, that would help in the short term.
Longer term, it's following the policies that we have in Wales in relation to 'A Healthier Wales'. It's all about getting services back into the community. I've talked about this discharge to recover then assess model, because that's the accepted model, and managers like it. So, making sure that the staff and the structures are properly funded so that we're not always worrying every year where our staff are going to go. So, if we want to keep people out of hospital, it's not part of a fancy transformation package, it's actually co-funded.
And the last word to you, Pippa.
Thank you very much. Absolutely, all of the closer to home work and that is going to be important. But we have to remember that people will end up going into hospital as emergencies and, therefore, we can't just take everything away from that, because there are still going to be patients that need speech and language therapy, OT and physio at that stage, so it's remembering that right for patients as well, in addition to what my colleagues said. Thank you.
Yes, thanks to the three of you. Diolch yn fawr iawn ichi.
Two very brief questions. The first one is: we need more of all the additional health professionals. How do we set about it? Is there capacity in universities, is there capacity in places, for them to be trained? If we wanted a 20 per cent increase in speech and language therapists, how do we go about it?
Absolutely, there's that route, there's that track, isn't there? And that starts with the university placements. We want to be able to train people in different ways, apprenticeships. At the moment, we only have one speech and language therapy degree course in Wales, in south Wales. There's another one coming on board in Wrexham in the next year, which will be great, because that will train speech and language therapists within Wales outside of that south-east area. But, yes, and there are lots of implications to that. It's the training places, it's the placements for people to have, and then it's the working through and the recruitment and feeding them through to be the workforce in Wales, but also having that diversity of students. We know that students come from lots of different places, and they train in different ways and different areas, and that's important to the profession as well. So, yes, having that diversity is really important to feed in.
Why can't we have one in south-west Wales? I'm sure Calum would agree with me that far too often Wales is seen as, by having somebody up in the north, somebody in Cardiff or the Cardiff and Vale area, then that's Wales done. There's the Swansea bay region, which takes in Pembrokeshire, Carmarthenshire, Swansea and Neath Port Talbot. Why can't we have it in one of those universities? My knowledge of universities is it's quite straightforward—if you tell them they've got funding, they'll run courses.
I'll jump in there. There has been an increase now in the number of providers across Wales for the AHPs in the universities; you can also do a Master's level to come into some of the professions now as well, so there are different routes in.
In terms of geography, historically, yes, Mike is right. We had Cardiff providing physiotherapy, and then most students want to work in Cardiff straight after and we'd have recruitment problems in west and north Wales. There's been a tender—HIW have now gone out to tender—and my understanding is that there now should be provision across Wales for training, and there has been an increase in the number of providers, the number of universities, that are doing this. So, we're hoping that will mean that there'll be more people training in places like west Wales and then staying there to work. I think all the other professions have similar problems and would agree.
The one problem we're finding that's worth mentioning, I think, because the committee may have to look at it in the future, is that the priority is obviously the bursary students in Wales, who've received the NHS bursary. That does mean that, when they're applying for jobs after they've graduated, students in England aren't allowed to apply to that process. So, there's a situation right now where students in Wales are getting priority for those posts, and health boards need to invest more in those posts to make sure they can attract a wider pool of students, not just the students in Wales. There are students who've gone to train in England who might want to come and work in Wales and live in Wales to start their careers. So, we need to attract students across the border and have a system that is open to people applying from across the UK.
Can I come back to Calum for my last question? Occupational health—are they still constrained by rules that are not necessarily beneficial? I dealt with an elderly lady who had mobility difficulties, and they wanted to cover her house with grab rails. Actually, her problem was she had lino on the floor that was slippery and she was slipping on it. The chief executive had to approve this on the council, because it couldn't be approved at any lower level, but we actually put carpets in the living room, in the kitchen, on the stairs and in the bedroom, rather than having lino and other slippery things, and she didn't need any grab rails, she just needed carpet. But that was outside what occupational health could provide, so it had to go to the chief executive to approve it. So, instead of spending £20,000 on work that would be not particularly beneficial, we spent less than £1,000 on carpet, which solved the problem.
Dai Davies, go ahead.
Yes, there are issues in relation to different Acts of law in relation to that. So, under the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014, we should be able to provide that, but there's a housing and regeneration Act, pre devolution, that is very much focused on just threshold management, coming in the house, on and off the toilet and stuff like that. So, sometimes the stuff like carpets and stuff are not under the legislation and it has to be under discretionary funding. Our OTs think, actually, we should be able to prescribe anything that helps that person, but there is still a traditional model of it would have to be grab rails and stuff like that, but actually it's not. So, there are some problems with the legislation and interpretation there, Mike.
Who—? I assume we're not going to have legislation on this. Would a letter from the health Minister—? Sorry to go on, Chair, but would a letter from the health Minister to local authorities telling them that they could use their discretion to do this actually help?
Yes, and it's the same with the motor neurone disease stuff and the suggestion that we remove the means testing. But, ultimately, as you know, Mike, it's up to the local authority how they spend that money, and the goodwill of the technical officers and the occupational therapists. But it is a struggle. It is a struggle. It is.