Posted: Wed 15th May 2024

First Minister challenged over health care provision after Bank Holiday “black alert” at North Wales health board

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales


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There are regularly more than 300 people who are medically fit for discharge but can’t leave hospital in North Wales, the Senedd has been told.

The detail emerged when Sam Rowlands MS asked the First Minister for “update on healthcare provision in North Wales” during First Minister Questions yesterday.

In a short opener, FM Vaughan Gething MS replied, “Healthcare overall in North Wales is not where I, nor indeed the staff delivering those services, would want it to be. As part of the special measures escalation, the Welsh Government is working closely with Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board to improve access to the safe and timely health and care that the people of North Wales deserve”.

Sam Rowlands MS followed up echo recent calls for an independent review of the Health Board, “The First Minister will be aware that, just last week, a black alert was issued in the North Wales health board because hospitals could not cope with the bank holiday levels of demand, and, sadly, this is far too often an occurrence for the residents that I represent in North Wales.

“You’ll also be aware that just before the last Senedd election, you felt it right to pull that health board out of special measures, and then inevitably very quickly after the Senedd elections, the health board went straight back into special measures.

“Now, things are as bad as they ever have been for the residents that I represent in North Wales, and I shared in this Chamber last week the example of one of my residents who is, sadly, terminally ill with cancer, who had to wait more than 24 hours in an A&E department. So, First Minister, because of the regularity of these occurrences, and because of the severity of the issues that my residents are suffering, would you not think that now is the time for an independent review of the health board, so that the people that I represent can get the healthcare that they deserve?”

The First Minister rejected the call, “On your questions about, in particular, unscheduled and emergency care, this is an area where we know there’s further improvement that is required. I can’t comment on individual waits, but I recognise, as indeed does the Cabinet Secretary, that there are too many people who have an experience of waiting too long in an emergency department, or, indeed, an experience that we would not wish for our own loved ones as well.

“That’s why there’s a range of improvement action that is taking place. There’s some extra resource available. So, there’s £2 million for the health board in the financial year that we’re just entering, and, indeed, in January, the Cabinet Secretary announced money for the whole of Wales, and Betsi Cadwaladr got the largest share of that.

“There’s quite a lot of work that is being done on trying to make sure that people get to the most appropriate point for their care—so, for example, the same-day emergency service that has been created since Eluned Morgan became the Cabinet Secretary and the additional roll-out of urgent primary care that has taken place across North Wales. Those are thousands of people who are getting seen in a more prompt manner because that is the right thing to do for them. ”

“What we actually have is both the twin challenges of needing to transform our system whilst at the same time seeing demand increase.

“I think, in February this year, compared to a year before, there’s been a 24 per cent increase in demand coming in through our emergency departments, and that’s a huge additional wave of demand that we need to be able to see and cope with. What makes that much harder is that we’re not able to get people out of hospital when they’re medically fit for discharge.

Pointing to Mr Rowland’s previous role he added, “The Member will know, as a former leader of a local authority, that this is joint work between health and local government, to make sure that when the hospital is no longer the right place for their care, those people can leave. In North Wales, there are regularly more than 300 people who are medically fit for discharge but can’t leave.

“To give context to that, that’s about two thirds of the entire bed space in Ysbyty Glan Clwyd. Now, it’s in the interest of all of us to work together because, for that person who is in the wrong place, it’s actually not a great experience for them, they’re actually then subject to additional risks of decommissioning, and the Member will know this from his own time when he had a real job before politics, and actually thinking about the need to make sure that people are properly able to get around and about.

“So, this is a shared challenge for the two biggest sectors of the public sector, and, crucially, for those individuals as well. Those are the issues we face, and that is what we’re going to carry on focusing on with our attention, together with partners and stakeholders.”

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