Patients have been asked to try other options before dialling 999 or going to A&E, because of 'unprecedented' pressure on emergency units.
Hywel Dda health chiefs agree a plan to cut services in some smaller hospitals and re-invest millions of pounds in new community facilities.
Plans revealed to reorganise the NHS service provided by Hywel Dda Health Board
During First Minister's Questions, Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood said Carwyn Jones should take responsibility for problems in the Welsh health service. The Senedd exchanges following moves by Hywel Dda health board to postpone some operations to prepare for winter emergencies.
Leanne Wood said to the First Minister:
– Leanne Wood, Plaid Cymru leader
Are you aware of the level of outrage in Hywel Dda amongst clinicians who have been told that they will have a third of their workload taken away from them this winter. They will be underutilised for four months out of twelve. These staff members still have to be paid and people are stuck in waiting lists in pain and awaiting surgery. When can the people of Wales expect to see you take some responsibility for the problems in the Welsh NHS?
Welsh Conservatives have criticised the First Minister for 'side-stepping' concerns about Hywel Dda Health Board's controversial plans to cope with this year's winter pressures. Opposition Leader Andrew RT Davies said:
Patients awaiting non-urgent orthopaedic surgery in mid and west Wales have been left in limbo – unsure if their appointments will be met on time and confused about the coming months.
Carwyn Jones’s legacy of NHS cuts and his failure to fill vacancies has led to this pressure on services, yet all he can do is side-step and dismiss the very real concerns of communities in the region.
It is clear from both the health board and UNISON that radical changes are being proposed and I am shocked and appalled that the First Minister refuses to acknowledge this.
– Andrew RT Davies, leader of the Opposition
The UK Government produced a winter pressures plan for hospitals at the end of the summer. In Wales, Labour has refused to do the same – forcing health boards into a corner.
I urge Mr Jones to recognise the health board’s plans, intervene, and safeguard orthopaedic surgery as soon as possible.
The First Minister has faced sustained criticism in the Assembly chamber from all three opposition party leaders over a health board's plans to cope with winter pressures. Hywel Dda health board says it will reschedule some non-urgent operations in order to focus on emergency surgery.
At First Minister's Questions, Carwyn Jones was criticised by the Conservatives, Plaid Cymru and Liberal Democrats who said the plans would lead to further worrying delays for patients. But Mr Jones said Hywel Dda's proposals stemmed from sensible planning:
– Carwyn Jones AM, First Minister of Wales
We are planning for winter pressures. Local health boards are planning for an appropriate number of operations that create the capacity to deal with emergencies in the future.
Patients are being urged to think before dialling 999 or going to an A&E department, due to unprecedented pressure being felt by emergency units around Wales at the moment.
The Choose Well Wales website has advice on how you can get treatment locally.
We'd like to hear from you, on your experiences in A&E departments and views on the problems that mean hospitals have had to cancel routine surgery and redeploy staff.
Here's how to get in touch:
Email - firstname.lastname@example.org
Twitter - @itvwales
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Paul Hinge, chairman of a Mid Wales health watchdog, Ceredigion Community Health Council, says the ambulance service is "stretched" and restructuring processes mean hospitals have fewer beds available.
Health expert Marcus Longley warned that changes to the NHS in Wales, with fewer major A&E departments, could make the pressure on ambulances transferring patients worse, as response distances and times are increased.
Professor Longley said, though, that current problems lie within the system more broadly, and "the health service needs to get ahead of the problem, rather than just forever scrambling to catch up with it."
– Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board spokesperson
We have faced significant pressures over the last week in relation to emergency attendances to our main hospitals.
Our planned changes to community services, such as rolling out the home enhanced care service will provide alternatives to hospital admission and will therefore reduce pressure on emergency admissions and beds in both the acute and community hospitals.
Releasing resources from some inpatient facilities will allow us to develop a more flexible, responsive service across North Wales that avoids the need for hospital admission.
Abertawe Bro Morgannwg University Health Board says many of the people it has been treating have cardiac problems or have suffered a stroke. Many are over the age of 85.
The health board says it has brought in extra staff, and put on extra beds, to deal to with its A&E departments being exceptionally busy.
It says most routine operations have been postponed.
The Health Minister Lesley Griffiths said it is worth noting that exceptional pressure on A&E departments is "not a Wales-only problem", but is also happening in England.
"The public have an important part to play at this challenging time for emergency care services by using the most appropriate healthcare service to their needs and thinking before attending the Accident and Emergency Department or dialling 999."
"NHS staff continue to work extremely hard to care for patients during this period of pressure on hospital and emergency services, and my officials will continue to monitor the situation closely.”