Hywel Dda Health Board, which provides services in Carmarthenshire, Pembrokeshire and Ceredigion, warns their hospitals have consistently been operating at the highest levels of emergency pressure escalation, with increasing delays in ambulance handovers, emergency department waiting times and the volume of patients waiting to be discharged.
They are currently treating the highest number of inpatients with confirmed COVID-19 since the onset of the pandemic, and are at a point where urgent action must be taken to alleviate these pressures and mitigate potential risks to the quality and safety of care we provide to patients.
As a result, from Monday 21 December the Health Board will initiate measures that will allow them to release more clinical staff to support the COVID 19 response, support their inpatient capacity, whilst continuing to provide access to care for those patients with the most urgent clinical need.
The Health Board say they will prioritise outpatient clinics, endoscopy investigations, therapeutic interventions and surgical procedures for patients with the most urgent cancer and other high priority clinical need, whilst temporarily postponing assessments and treatments for patients with less urgent conditions. They ask people to avoid calling to confirm an appointment – and will contact patients if your appointments / admissions are to be cancelled. Emergency services will continue as normal.
The actions outlined will come into effect for an initial 4 week period from Monday 21st December 2020, and will be reviewed during the second week of January 2021. If they need to be extended beyond this period, they will be further reviewed at subsequent 3-week intervals.
The Health Board is also progressively expanding capacity at our field hospital locations as part of our wider Covid-19 response to help us better manage patient capacity and flow in our acute and community hospital sites.
Andrew Carruthers, Director of Operations at Hywel Dda, said: “From the outset of the pandemic, the Health Board has anticipated and planned for the need to redeploy clinical staff into urgent and critical care roles if they are needed. The measures we are taking are intended to protect patients with the most urgent clinical need whilst allowing us to reprioritise staff to mitigate the increasing risk of harm in acute and emergency care, due to the pressures we have spoken about.
“We are working together as one Health Board and I am deeply proud of all of our staff for their professionalism and commitment to keeping key NHS services running, even in the face of danger, and under extreme pressure and fatigue. Thank you all.”
Mansell Bennett, Chair of local patient watchdog the Community Health Council added: “Local NHS services are clearly under great pressure currently. We understand that temporary changes and difficult decisions need to be made.
“It’s a really tough time for the NHS staff who are working daily to deliver safe services in hospitals, in GP surgeries as well as within our communities in a wide range of places. Every one of us may need those services or may already use and rely upon them. We have spoken to the Health Board regularly throughout the pandemic, to monitor the situation as it has been changing. As we approach Christmas, the situation is becoming even more challenging and we’ll continue to listen to what the public are saying.”