Hospitals and health services in Cardiff and the Vale are preparing for a  busy winter period when more people get ill.  Winter is the busiest time of year for Cardiff and Vale hospitals – which has forecasted around 700 beds will be in use in peak times during the first Monday in January. On an average Monday in November and December, the health board will have 683 medical patients in a hospital bed. The hospitals will face additional challenges with adverse weather, infectious and viral outbreaks and the exacerbation of chronic medical conditions. To cope with the extra demand, Cardiff and Vale University Health Board has worked with partners in social care, Welsh Ambulance Service and the voluntary sector to develop a winter plan to manage the increased demand on services Both University Hospital Wales in Cardiff and University Hospital Llandough are planning extra beds over the winter period. The proposed bed plan for winter allows for an additional 32 beds to be opened at UHW, while the health board has also made financial provision for a further 12 beds, with work ongoing to confirm the location and staffing arrangements to support this. It is expected the first of the additional beds will open in a phased manner from early December with the remainder of the beds opening in early January. More senior doctors will be available as ‘decision makers’ to maintain flow at the front-door of the hospital.  Healthcare services are also aiming to boost the range of accommodation, community based services and support to ensure people are discharged from hospital quickly. Under winter planning arrangements, the GP out-of-hours services will have increased capacity during winter through increased shifts for triaging and clinical practitioner shifts on weekends. Some GPs will also be given equipment to allow them to work from home via a secure network if circumstances such as adverse weather disrupts the out-of-hours service.   Community pharmacies will also have additional opening hours so they can be accessed by patients in Cardiff and the Vale of Glamorgan on all Bank Holidays over the winter period. The seasonal flu vaccination campaign this year will focus on increasing uptake among people aged under 65 deemed to be at risk, and all primary school and preschool aged children, but will also encourage uptake among all eligible groups including pregnant women. A network of community falls clinics within Cardiff will be accessible for individuals who are at a lower risk of falls but would benefit from an assessment to reduce their risk of falling in the future. A spokeswoman for Cardiff and Vale UHB said: “During the busy period it is important that patients choose the right services first time to ensure they are receiving the most appropriate treatment. “By visiting a community pharmacy for advice and treatment of minor illnesses could free up time for medical professionals in GP Practices and hospitals ensuring they are seeing unwell patients. “We would also urge patients with chronic conditions, older people and young children to make sure they receive their free flu jab which will protect them during the flu season.”