Chronic conditions present a growing challenge to health and social services in Wales. An estimated 800,000 people report having at least one chronic condition; such as diabetes, heart disease, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. The prevalence of chronic conditions increases with age and its burden on the health system is likely to increase as more people live longer.
The report shows that progress has been made. Strategies published by the Welsh Government since 2008 provide a clear vision for improving the management of chronic conditions. Locally there is improved access to patient education programmes to support self-management of long term conditions. Budgets for community services have increased, there are more nurses working in a community setting, and patients are able to get quicker access to community based services. Collectively this has led to reduced hospital admissions for chronic-condition-related illnesses.
However, the report also indicates where further progress is needed. In several health boards, the plans that set out how care will be shifted from hospital to community settings are insufficiently clear. Most of the community based services for chronic conditions are still only available on weekdays and there is a need to better co-ordinate the work of the different staff groups and teams that care for patients with chronic conditions. More work is also required to embed processes for identifying and supporting the patients at greatest risk of an unplanned hospital admission.