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Winter pressures at hospitals ‘exceptional’ – Vaughan Gething

This article was taken from: https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-wales-51048246

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Pressures on hospitals in Wales are “exceptional” and “really, really tough,” the health minister has said.

Vaughan Gething visited three hospitals in west Wales to see problems.

He said it was “undeniably significantly different” to previous winters, with high numbers of sick patients coming in, despite milder weather and flu not being a huge issue.

One doctor said there are 125 medically fit patients in his hospital unable to leave until social care was available.

The number of red calls to ambulance service is 15% higher than the same time last year.

Mr Gething, on a visit to Neath Port Talbot Hospital, said the fragility in supporting people in their own homes and residential care added to the problem.

He said Hywel Dda health board took the right decision to postpone planned operations earlier this week, to prioritise patients.

“The extremity of demand we’ve seen at this particular point of the year meant they had to take additional measures and they did the right thing – that’s not a failure of planning but the extraordinary demand we’ve seen across they system.”

Planned inpatient surgery had been cancelled at Bronglais, Prince Philip, Glangwili and Withybush hospitals in west Wales on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.

Vaughan Gething visited three hospitals in west Wales to see problems.

He said it was “undeniably significantly different” to previous winters, with high numbers of sick patients coming in, despite milder weather and flu not being a huge issue.

One doctor said there are 125 medically fit patients in his hospital unable to leave until social care was available.

The number of red calls to ambulance service is 15% higher than the same time last year.

Mr Gething, on a visit to Neath Port Talbot Hospital, said the fragility in supporting people in their own homes and residential care added to the problem.

He said Hywel Dda health board took the right decision to postpone planned operations earlier this week, to prioritise patients.

“The extremity of demand we’ve seen at this particular point of the year meant they had to take additional measures and they did the right thing – that’s not a failure of planning but the extraordinary demand we’ve seen across they system.”

Planned inpatient surgery had been cancelled at Bronglais, Prince Philip, Glangwili and Withybush hospitals in west Wales on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.

Hywel Dda health board said the picture “remains challenging” however it said there had been a slight improvement and Bronglais and Prince Philip hospitals had a de-escalated status on Thursday.

A spokeswoman added: “The actions we have taken have allowed us to resume some inpatient surgery.

“We are mindful that our services continue to operate under significant pressures and we continue to urge the public to choose well by visiting NHS symptom checker or visiting their community pharmacy for advice and treatment, particularly for seasonal ailments.”

At Morriston Hospital in the neighbouring Swansea Bay health board, emergency department consultant Mark Poulden said there were seven or eight ambulances waiting to unload patients and it was “chock-a-block”.

“Each year is getting slightly worse,” he said. “It’s a sustained pressure and it’s the effect of that constant pressure – there are 125 medically-fit patients waiting for care in other places, it’s moving them on and clearly that has a knock-on effect.

“We see this UK-wide but talking to colleagues it seems to be a little worse in Wales. It’s got to be about working together between health and social care.”

Betsi Cadwaladr health board postponed routine operations at Glan Clwyd Hospital earlier this week and a small number of routine operations were also postponed at Wrexham Maelor Hospital and Ysbyty Gwynedd.

“At the moment, no operations are being postponed in our three acute hospitals due to pressures in our emergency departments,” said a spokeswoman.

Abergele hospital has also resumed planned operations after staff were relocated to help out.

The health board has also asked patients not to come to hospital if they have suffered symptoms of norovirus.

“Even if your symptoms have stopped you may still be able to spread the virus for the following 48 hours, so try to avoid coming to our hospitals,” said Amanda Miskell, assistant director of nursing for infection prevention.

“The support of people across north Wales is absolutely vital in helping to reduce the spread of these viruses, and others in our hospitals and wider communities.”

Paul Summers, Unison Cymru Wales head of health, said: “Wholesale cancellation of routine operations shows why it is essential we properly invest in hospitals and in safe staff numbers.

“Healthcare employees are working as hard as they possibly can, often going way beyond, to keep services running in trying circumstances. They are very worried about the pressures the NHS is under – this is no longer just a winter phenomenon.

“We have an emergency care and social care system that cannot adequately support a population which is living longer and has complex health needs.”

He said NHS Wales and councils could not wait until March to see what the Budget from the UK government might bring.

Mr Gething said: “It’s partly about how we use resources across our system, it’s partly helping the public to choose but also how we point them in the right direction.”