NHS in Wales facing ‘highest levels of demand ever’

  • Interview with Darren Hughes, director of the Welsh NSH Confederation

The NHS in Wales is experiencing an ‘extreme surge’ in demand for its services, according to the organisation that represents the Welsh Health Boards and Trusts.

The Welsh NHS Confederation is calling on the UK and Welsh Governments to provide a "clear multi-year financial settlement" that will help the health service plan for the future. 

Medics say that although hospital admissions with COVID-19 and deaths are low, other issues are now building to the point where some health areas are dealing with the ‘highest levels of demand’ ever. 

Figures from Welsh Government show that in June 2021, over 41,000 emergency calls were made to the Ambulance Service. This accounted for the third highest average number of calls per day in any month, since comparable data was first collected in October 2015.

And there were over 94,000 attendances to all NHS Wales Emergency Departments, surpassing pre-pandemic levels. 

Credit: PA

So what's the problem?

  • COVID-19 infection prevention - restrictions on the number of people allowed in healthcare settings to allow for social distancing is having a major impact on the number of patients who can be treated at any given time. 

  • The NHS workforce is dealing with high levels of sickness from stress and psychological problems. Many are having to self-isolate after coming into contact with a COVID case. 

  • Huge pressure is mounting due to the backlog of planned care and record demand on GP services, at A&E and on mental health services.

Darren Hughes, director of the Welsh NHS Confederation, said:

“There’s no single reason behind the current situation, but a combination of complex factors across the whole health and care system. In many areas we’re seeing the highest levels of demand on record, combined with restricted capacity, increasing patient needs and high public expectation, culminating in the greatest pressure on the NHS in a generation.”

Credit: PA

The Welsh NHS Confederation also points to "public expectation" as part of the problem. "People are understandably less tolerant and expect a speed of recovery the NHS is currently unable to deliver," the report reads. 

The document, which has been submitted to Members of the Senedd, acknowledges that "as we hear of impressive vaccination rates and the subsequent effect on hospitalisations, it’s hard for the public to understand why the NHS isn’t recovering all services at pace."

Getting NHS staff back to work and receiving a financial plan is the best way to cope with the demand going forward, the Welsh Confederation explains. Especially as "there is no evidence to suggest the pressures will reduce over the coming months."