'Madness', 'misjudged': Frontline NHS staff criticise Christmas bubble plans as UK leaders meet

  • Watch as Mark Drakeford addresses Welsh Parliament

Wales' First Minister Mark Drakeford has said he will "not lightly put aside" the "hard-won" four nations agreement over household mixing at Christmas.

The Welsh Labour leader met with the leaders of Scotland, Northern Ireland and UK Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove on Tuesday to discuss the measures amid a surge in coronavirus infections across Wales.

In a statement following that meeting, a Welsh Government source said the leaders will meet again tomorrow to "confirm the position".

“The leaders of the devolved administrations and Michael Gove met this evening to discuss the arrangements over the Christmas period. They will reconvene tomorrow to confirm the position."

It comes as frontline NHS workers criticised the Welsh Government's commitment to allow people to mix indoors over the Christmas period.

Warnings came from one health boss who said hospitals across Wales are 'nearly full' due to a surge in Coronavirus patients.

The health service is also battling with staff shortages due to self-isolation and sickness. First Minister Mark Drakeford said around 1,500 NHS wokrers are currently off work.

Darren Hughes from the Welsh NHS Confederation warned that more hospitals around the country could soon suspend non-urgent care after two health boards said they were doing so in response to a large increase in cases.

Despite the rise in transmission around the country, the Welsh Government has made an agreement with the other three nations in the UK that up to three households can mix between December 23 - 27.

But since the announcement, doctors including one intensive care consultant told ITV News that the Christmas coronavirus relaxations and people seeing family over the festive period risked a "massive cost in January."

Another, Dr Tim Rogerson, suggested Wales' hospitals may need the support of the army to help deal with the current situation.ITV Wales asked NHS staff, working in hospitals, GP practises and the ambulance service to describe, in one word, their thoughts on allowing more people to mix over the festive period. The responses were gathered on condition of anonymity.

Here's what they told us:

  • "Brave"

  • "Perilous"

  • "Misguided"

  • "Misjudged"

  • "Reckless"

  • "Negligent"

  • "Catastrophic"

  • "Madness"

  • "Foolish"

  • "Insanity"

On Monday, Wales' health minister refused to rule out a lockdown before Christmas in response to a spike in Covid-19 cases.

The Welsh Government - which recently introduced tougher measures around hospitality, indoor tourism and education in a bid to tackle the virus - had previously said it did not expect to make further changes this side of Christmas.

But, Vaughan Gething said a move to the highest alert level - equivalent to a lockdown - was one option being looked at.

He said, "Every option is still available to us. We'll continue to have those discussions. We'll continue to take evidence from the chief medical officer; from our scientific advisors. We'll then have to make balanced choices. We have to think about the real-world impact in terms of both lives and livelihoods. These are not straightforward choices."

Mark Drakeford told a virtual Senedd on Tuesday that, "either way, harm is done" when asked about tightening the rules.

In response to the workers' criticism, the Welsh Government said it is working "closely" with critical care services to provide "transfers or mutual aid from across health boards in Wales to help alleviate some of this pressure.

"We have introduced more stringent guidelines to reduce social mixing but the Government cannot control the spread of the virus alone. Every one of us has a key role to play in stopping the virus from spreading. How we all act – and the choices we all make over the coming days and weeks - will define the course of this virus.”