Betsi Cadwaladr: All but 'most urgent procedures' cancelled as health board 'struggles to cope'

In November 2020, the Welsh Government took the health board out of special measures and moved it to a 'targeted intervention' status

Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board has postponed all but the "most urgent" procedures as it is "struggling to cope" with "unprecedented" demand on the North Wales health system.

The health board declared an "internal critical incident" this morning (Monday), saying that it has seen "prolonged, significant demand" amid winter viruses, parents seeking help due to concerns about Strep A and injuries associated with the cold weather.

The board says the Royal College of Nursing industrial action due to take place again on Tuesday and the Welsh Ambulance Service action on Wednesday will limit its ability to respond even further.

The Health Board said: "We regret that this will impact on a number of patients who were due to receive planned care over the next few days and sincerely apologise to all those affected, who will be rescheduled as soon as possible.

"This is an exceptionally challenging time for colleagues across our health services and we are hugely grateful for the continued efforts being made in such difficult circumstances."

The Health Board also said that the increased demand has meant extremely long waits for patients to be seen – particularly at Emergency Departments. 

"A lack of available beds in our hospitals is currently leading to unprecedented ambulance delays across the Health Board and we are working closely with Local Authority colleagues to support medically fit patients to be discharged from hospital," it says.

"We are urging members of the public who need help to contact 111 in the first instance to be advised about the most appropriate service..."

"As always, our Emergency Departments will remain open and will see patients in order of clinical priority.

"We regret that we anticipate that those who do attend will face extremely long waits to be seen while staff on duty do all they can to keep patients safe."

Welsh Conservative Shadow Health Minister Russell George MS said it's "no shock" the board is unable to cope.

He said: "It is, sadly, a tale as old as time for staff and patients in the region who have been let down by the way the NHS has been run there by the Labour Government in Cardiff Bay.

"We need to hear urgently from Labour’s Health Minister to know what the plan of action is, especially with more strikes from nurses and ambulance workers imminent – patients must have confidence that they can access the safe healthcare there taxes pay for.

"When we see that the problem is insufficient beds, it stings all the more when we know Labour has cut a third of NHS beds in the devolution era and have waited so long to address bed-blocking where healthy people are stuck in hospital because they cannot be discharged somewhere safe.

"I really do fear that 2022 may have been a terrible year for the Welsh NHS – with treatment waiting lists, A&E waits, and ambulance response times all hitting their worst rates on record over the last 12 months – but, under Labour, things can still get worse."

Rhun ap Iorwerth, Member of the Senedd for Ynys Môn and Plaid Cymru spokesperson on Health and Care said: "The state of our NHS is becoming more and more worrying.

"Staff and patients are suffering as the unsustainability of our health and care service becomes more stark by the day. Only this morning, I was contacted about very unwell patients facing prolonged waits for ambulances.

"Declaring a critical incident may be understandable when things are as bad as they’re being described by the health board. But the question is, why is the NHS having to operate at maximum capacity and beyond? It can’t."