Wales

Winter pledge to support vulnerable people by Welsh government

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Media captionLocal councils are already preparing for winter

Vulnerable people and essential services will be protected this winter, the Welsh government has pledged.

Local Government Minister Lesley Griffiths also urged people to be "good neighbours" when temperatures drop.

It comes as assembly members prepare to debate how hospitals aim to cope with winter pressures.

Health Minister Mark Drakeford has said that health boards are better placed this year to deal with any surge in demand after last year's problems.

Hospitals cancelled hundreds of operations due to increased numbers of people turning up at A&E departments, especially elderly patients.

Mr Drakeford has said detailed plans have been developed to put the NHS on a stronger footing to cope this winter, although he admitted that difficult days lie ahead.

But opposition parties want him to publish each health board's winter plan.

Hywel Dda health board serving mid and west Wales was recently criticised for suggesting non-urgent orthopaedic operations could be halted for several months in order to prioritise urgent care.

Ms Griffiths told AMs in the Senedd on Tuesday that the Welsh government had a number of schemes in place to help those who would be most at risk from the cold weather.

Among the projects designed to help people this winter are:

  • Improving integrated planning between the NHS and local authorities. Health boards, councils and the ambulance service have all developed unscheduled care recovery plans.
  • Households urged to take advantage of Welsh government advice and financial support to cut their energy use and spending
  • A contingency management plan for farming communities before the worst of the winter weather arrives
  • Guidance to head teachers and councils on whether schools should remain open or closed
  • A new flood warning system across Wales and new flood defences at Fairbourne in Gwynedd and Swansea
  • Increased pre-winter salt stocks to 250,000 tonnes, with two additional storage facilities set up in mid and north Wales
  • Network Rail has measures in place to ensure the 936 route miles across Wales and the borders remain open, with key routes prioritised if conditions dictate

"Whilst weather prediction is not an exact science, earlier warning allows us to be better equipped and organised," said Ms Griffiths.

"Our priorities are to support the most vulnerable, and safeguard our economy and infrastructure.

"Everyone needs to be good neighbours at all times. Communities can do a lot to help themselves. It is important people come together to help each other. It is a message we need to keep pressing."

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