WALES’s Health Minister Eluned Morgan has warned that the health and social care system in Wales is currently under ‘extraordinary pressure’.
Significant challenges caused by COVID outbreaks within hospitals limiting available bed capacity, high levels of COVID in the community, staff sickness absence and blockages in patient flow through hospitals leading to difficulties discharging patients have put the sector under strain.
These issues have been exacerbated by a recent increase in levels of demand.
People in Wales are being urged to ‘help us, help you’ by accessing the NHS 111 Wales website and its symptom checkers, helping to ensure they access the right care in the right place the first time.
This will help reduce avoidable delays to care and support more acutely ill people to be treated most appropriately.
It comes after the Aneurin Bevan University health board declared a business continuity incident yesterday, also known as a Black alert, in light of unprecedented pressures at its Grange University Hospital and other sites.
This is the highest level of escalation available and indicates the severe pressure being experienced by our health and care services.
Previous health minister Vaughan Gething rushed through the Grange’s opening before last May’s election despite understaffing and without all facilities for its operation being ready.
Hospital sites across Wales are under extraordinary pressure, which has affected the timely delivery of care.
This has resulted, at times, in lengthy ambulance patient handover delays, limits on ambulance capacity, increased waits for admission from emergency departments to a hospital bed and longer waits for discharge home once treatment has been completed.
Measures have already been taken across all health board areas to relieve pressure to ensure patients can continue to receive the care and treatment they need in a safe and timely manner.
To manage the situation in the Aneurin Bevan University Health Board area, where The Grange University Hospital is based, all non-essential activities have been cancelled, with clinical and non-clinical senior colleagues re-prioritising their workload accordingly to manage the position across the Gwent region.
Health Minister Eluned Morgan said: “The health and social care system in Wales is currently under extraordinary pressure, and we would strongly urge anyone seeking care to make sure they access the right care in the right place, whether that’s through ‘help us, help you’, access to the NHS Wales 111 website or urgent and emergency care.
“We have been open about the challenges that NHS Wales and 999 and Emergency Departments are under. This is not a unique situation in Wales; health services across the UK face similar challenges.
“Our priority is to ensure the safe and efficient delivery of healthcare services. Anyone with a serious or urgent need for hospital treatment and those who have ‘a life-threatening illness or serious injury’ should still attend the emergency department.
“Those who have a less urgent need or could access the treatment they need at an alternative setting can help reduce pressure by choosing the right service.
“The public can also help by supporting the timely discharge of their family members when they are ready to leave hospital.
“If you have a relative or loved one in hospital who is well enough to go home but is waiting to be discharged with home care and community health support, you MAY be able to help them to get home more quickly if you and your family are in a position to support them at home.”
THE LOCAL PICTURE
Emergency and unplanned care services in community and hospital settings are under unprecedented pressure across the Hywel Dda UHB area on Wednesday, March 30.
The Board’s Director of Operations, Andrew Carruthers, said: “We are dealing with a combination of high numbers of attendances, particularly in our Emergency Departments, and challenges in health professional staffing due to COVID-19.
“Our GP practices and hospitals are busy, and we still need to follow specific requirements for the safe treatment of those patients with COVID-19 and those without.
“We are working with our local authorities as there are difficulties in discharging some patients due to similar staffing challenges the social care sector faces. This means we have very few beds to accommodate patients who need admission.
“Our teams are helping patients by their clinical priority, but this does mean that in some cases, waits in our Emergency Departments are hours long and far more than what we would strive to deliver.
“If you need medical help, please think carefully about the services you choose.”
If you are unwell and unsure what to do, you can visit the online symptom checker or call NHS 111 if you are unsure what help you need.
Only attend an Emergency Department if you have a life-threatening illness or serious injury, such as:
• Severe breathing difficulties
• Severe pain or bleeding
• Chest pain or a suspected stroke
• Serious trauma injuries (e.g. from a car crash)
If you have a less serious injury, please visit a Minor Injury Unit. They can treat adults and children over 12-months of age with injuries such as
• Minor wounds
• Minor burns or scalds
• Insect bites
• Minor limb, head, or face injuries
• Foreign bodies in the nose or ear
Minor injury or walk-in services to serve Pembrokeshire are located at Cardigan Integrated Care Centre, Tenby Hospital, and main acute hospitals.
Many community pharmacies can also provide walk-in, common ailment or triage and treat services without an appointment.
However, due to Covid infection, several community pharmacies in Pembrokeshire are already closed to the public, leaving patients with Hobson’s Choice of where to go.
Suppose you have an inpatient relative waiting for a formal care package. You may be able to offer support and care on a short term, temporary arrangement, or you might want to consider whether your loved one could be supported in a temporary residential or nursing care setting.
If you feel that this is an option you could consider, please speak to the ward manager or your social worker to explore further and see what support is available.