Critical care 'at capacity' in Wales as NHS boss delivers bleak health service warning

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Credit: Welsh Government

Critical care in Wales' hospitals is currently operating at full capacity, the chief executive of the NHS has told a press conference.

Andrew Goodall faced questions from journalists on Wednesday afternoon where he said there are currently 700 Covid-related patients in hospitals across the country - a 49% increase since last week.

It comes as Wales recored the highest number of new coronavirus cases in a day since the start of the pandemic.

In a stark warning, Dr Goodall said, "It doesn't take much with the maths involved to see a system under pressure.

"It is quite possible that without action we could see the NHS in Wales under pressure within a month."

He said, "I think that this is going to be the most challenging period that I have seen in my career and i think that will be duplicated in the care system.

"There is a combination of things that we need to understand and work through. We have to look at the upcoming flu season, we don’t know yet how difficult that will be."

Dr Goodall emphasised that most patients in critical care do not have coronavirus but the need for health boards to expand their capacity, will "unfortunately" also impact on planned surgery.

Many routine procedures were placed on hold at the height of the pandemic earlier this year.

On implementing travel restrictions to people living outside of Wales, Dr Goodall said, "We are clear in Wales that as part of our levels that we are putting in place local restrictions and people should not be traveling out of the area unless they have reasonable excuses.

"It is trying to limit the opportunities for the virus to develop in social settings. From my perspective I would welcome any actions that help us control any transmission here in Wales".

Watch the full press conference here:

  • Analysis by Health Correspondent James Crichton-Smith

If you were in any doubt about the severity of the situation facing Wales, today's press conference from the CEO of NHS Wales, Dr Andrew Goodall, will have made it clear.

There were some bleak messages. - Wales's critical care capacity is full- The 5,000 extra beds being put in place is 10x what they'd usually have ready for a normal winter- There are 700 Covid-related patients in hospital. That's a 49% increase since last week.- There are 326 confirmed Covid patients in Welsh hospitals. That's 70% higher than two weeks ago.

It is clear, despite Dr Goodall stopping short of giving a definitive answer, that if action is not taken now, the NHS in Wales could face unbearable pressure in the next month.

This assessment tallies with what doctors on the ground have told me, too. Unlike before the first wave, they're concerned that hospital admissions are already high. A&E departments are busy, hospitals have Covid patients in them and many also have outbreaks of the virus, too.

All this makes preparing for a second wave that bit more challenging. Staff are trying to keep as many services going as possible, while also making space in other clinical areas for what they know is coming down the track.

Dr Goodall made clear that the impacts on Welsh hospitals are now similar to those we were seeing in March.

There is also an inevitability to a lot of what Dr Goodall was saying. Critical care cases will increase in the next three weeks, he said. In his words: "It's inevitable".