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Covid staff shortages hitting Welsh hospital services

HOSPITAL services across South Wales are being severely disrupted because of staff shortages caused by Covid-related absences.

Notifications coming from two separate health boards, Aneurin Bevan and Swansea Bay UHB, advises the public to stay away from hospitals unless suffering life-threatening injuries or serious illness.

A tweet from Swansea Bay’s Twitter account dated January 3 reads: “URGENT: Calling Swansea Bay nurses and HCSWs. We are currently extremely busy and looking for volunteers to work extra hours this evening. If you can help, please ring 01792 703269 asap. Thank you!”

A tweet from Aneurin Bevan Health Board, which covers Gwent, dated the same day, January 3, reads:

“Our hospitals are extremely busy tonight.

“Please only attend if absolutely necessary.

“Due to staffing difficulties, the Minor Injuries Unit at Ysbyty Ystrad Fawr will close at 9pm tonight.

“Thank you for your support and understanding.”

Betsi Cadwaladr Health Board, which covers North Wales, also suspended elective treatments there shortly before Christmas.

Dr Richard Pugh, Chair of the Welsh Intensive Care Society and intensive care consultant, said staffing is “always the major issue in terms of providing critical care, in particular critical care nurses”.

“Workforces absences through illness and self-isolation requirements are a worry heading into the coming weeks, if the current community transmission rates continue as they appear to be doing at the moment.” he added

“At times, units in the last week have said essentially, look we’re close if not at the point of being full at the moment and we need to be transferring patients across between units.

“The double whammy of staff absence and an anticipated increase in demand for critical care service together are going to be difficult.”

Welsh Conservative Russell George MS said A&E units were “dangerously short-staffed” and “dangerously long waits” facing Welsh patients was due to the fact that not a single emergency department had safe staffing levels was “disgraceful”.

Mr George, who is also Shadow Health Minister, said the current situation felt like “dominoes falling across the country to the detriment of patients”.

He continued: “It is concerning to see the NHS – something we all cherish and pay for – come to a situation where it cannot give its best to the public, especially services which the Labour Government is trying to get us to use instead of emergency departments.

“We know that these closures are not down to the health service coming under pressure from mass hospitalisations and deaths from Covid, but from staff with the virus having to self-isolate.

“Eventually, the same will be true but without the staff absences as that is clearly what living with the virus will mean. Sooner or later, we will stop talking about moving on from the pandemic, and actually do so with political consensus.

“We should not forget that 3,000 NHS staff vacancies in Wales has meant chronic staff shortages in the Labour-run NHS for years, and the failure to safely staff A&E departments even when Covid hospitalisations were low shows Labour has lost its grip on the NHS, to the detriment of all.”