North West Wales

Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board reduces services to cope with winter

Health officials will suspend some hospital services in north Wales for three months to help them cope with extra demand over winter.

Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board will create extra bed spaces at larger hospitals by reducing services elsewhere.

It blamed the changes, which will start on 2 January, on extra winter demand and the financial position.

The Patients Association said service cuts were being reported across the UK.

The health board said demand for unscheduled care services was rising and "winter is already bringing additional pressures on emergency services".

It said services like minor injuries units (MIUs) did not face the same demand as larger hospitals and nurses could be redeployed.

In a statement the board said: "The expected rise in demand over winter combined with issues with recruitment, staff sickness and the financial position mean that action must be taken to consolidate our services so that can continue to work safely and effectively."

It added: "The global financial situation and the state of UK public finances means that we must live within our means and ensure that our services are safe without the ability to make further investments.

"We can't keep trying to do more of what we have always done. We cannot ask our staff to keep working harder and harder and spread themselves ever more thinly."

Frontline services

Some services are unaffected, but in some areas where services have been closed or reduced, patients are advised to consult their GPs, or use alternative services.

On the closure of the ward at Ysbyty Bryn Beryl, Dr Olwen Williams, chief of staff at the health board, said: "This is the temporary closure of 15 beds in a community hospital where we actually had difficulty in using patients from the surrounding areas - there haven't been enough of them to fill the beds, and some people have not wanted to travel to those areas."

She admitted the trust had "huge financial pressures", but added that its priority was patient safety.

Dr Williams told BBC Radio Wales that disruption to patients would be minimal.

She said the health board had decided to shut some minor injury units that did not see many patients, as well as facilities that were available a short distance away.

She added that the closures would be in place until March, and would be reviewed on an ongoing basis.

Katherine Murphy, chief executive of the Patients Association, said: "We were promised by the government that the NHS would be protected during these financially trying times.

"However, we are hearing on our helpline from patients from across the country who are reporting cuts to services.

"We accept there are limited public finances, but making savings should not be at the expense of providing frontline services to patients."

A similar temporary closure of minor injury units has been announced in Pembrokeshire, to concentrate resources on the main general hospital in Haverfordwest.

Also, details of proposals were revealed to change emergency hospital treatment in mid and west Wales, which could see some patients travelling further.

In each option the A&E at Prince Philip Hospital, Llanelli, would be downgraded to what Hywel Dda Local Health Board calls an "urgent care centre".

It is reviewing its services, including A&E at Prince Philip, Glangwili in Carmarthen, Withybush in Haverfordwest and Bronglais in Aberystwyth.

The health board said no decisions had been taken and it would consult widely.

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