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Health Minister – Extraordinary Pressure in the Health and Social Care System

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Health Minister Eluned Morgan has warned the health and social care system in Wales is currently under ‘extraordinary pressure’ as a result of a range of factors.

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, which NHS Wales and social care staff are working tirelessly to manage, 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 first time.

This will help reduce avoidable delays to care, and support more acutely ill people to be treated in the most appropriate way.

It comes after the Aneurin Bevan University health board declared a business continuity incident yesterday, also known as a Black alert, in light of exceptional pressures it is facing at its Grange University Hospital and other sites.

This is the highest level of escalation available and clearly indicates the severe pressure being experienced by our health and care services.

Hospital sites across Wales are currently under extraordinary pressure and this has impacted on 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 completed.

The Welsh Government has invested an extra £42m funding for social care, some of which will be used to help increase community capacity and support people to return to their local communities from hospital when ready, and an additional £25m in urgent and emergency care; on top of £248m already announced for the NHS COVID recovery fund.

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.

In an effort 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.

The escalation status is being reviewed throughout the day.

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 in particular are under. This is not a unique situation in Wales; health services across the UK are facing similar challenges.

Our priority is to ensure the safe and efficient delivery of healthcare services and 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 for their needs.

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.”

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