THE unpredictability of COVID and future waves continues to pose a significant risk to the NHS in North Wales, says Betsi’s financial director.
Board members voted to back the Integrated Medium Term Plan (IMTP) 2022/25, which was presented at a Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board meeting.
The plan sets out the health board’s priorities and objectives for the next three years – including £35m of financial savings to be made each year for the next three years – and will now go before Welsh Government.
But the pandemic and future waves of COVID are still seen as a major risk factor when adopting the plan. And board members heard how COVID is estimated to cost around £80m over the course of the next year.
The £80m cost includes £39m for the test, trace, and protect scheme, mass vaccinations, PPE, and long COVID.
The report concludes that 15% of people testing positive for COVID will have symptoms for 12 weeks or more.
Fatigue is the most common symptom. The report also stated that six in ten people report that long COVID affects their well-being, ability to exercise, and their work.
Risk factors for the condition include increasing age, being female, obesity, poor pre-pandemic physical and mental health, and being hospitalised.
Sue Hill is Betsi’s executive director of finance. She said the trust’s £1.9 billion annual budget over the next three years could be tested by COVID. In her brief, Ms Hill explained Welsh Government had already allowed Betsi to break even by covering a £40m deficit in the last year,
“One of the major risks (for the three-year plan) is around the COVID costs and the exceptional costs, which have now been covered by Welsh Government,” she said.
“But there are other things that may affect us, so we’ve had to make an assumption about energy, and as we all know, just from watching the fuel cost, that is a really difficult number to estimate for the year.
“So there is chance that number could be much bigger than what we’ve put into the plan and is subject to further conversations with Welsh Government of how we fund that.
“There is also (the matter) of what a new COVID wave could have on our planning assumptions, and that is something we will just have to react to as it happens
“The critical bit is keeping our patients and staff safe, and that is how we have responded to COVID all the way through.”