NHS: Welsh hospitals under 'unprecedented' pressure ahead of busiest day of the year

311212 NHS

Hospitals are under "unprecedented" pressure ahead of the busiest day of the year, according to Wales' top doctors.

The New Year is traditionally the busiest time of year for the NHS, particularly in emergency departments.

Health boards have already reported more "acutely unwell" patients than normal this year, in part because of a large rise in flu and Covid numbers.

Across Wales, people are already being urged to avoid emergency departments unless their condition is life threatening.

The NHS 111 Wales helpline has also experienced unprecedented demand, with a record number of calls received in one day on Tuesday 27th December.

The Welsh Ambulance Service, which runs the helpline, has advised people they could be on hold for several hours before their call is answered.

The Chief Executive of the Welsh NHS, Judith Paget, has urged people to do what they can to relieve pressure on the NHS.

She said: “This winter our NHS is facing demand like we’ve never seen before. It’s absolutely vital therefore that we all think carefully about what we do as individuals to reduce pressure on our health service.

“Our Emergency Departments especially are there to help those who need the most urgent care in the shortest possible time, so please consider whether you need to attend, or if there are alternative options, such as visiting the NHS 111 Wales website.

“We can also prepare for minor illnesses or injuries by ensuring we have essential medicines available in our homes, such as paracetamol, and a first aid kit, should we need it.

“Thank you also to families who have supported the discharge of their loved ones so they could be home for Christmas. The ongoing support of families in this way helps us greatly in ensuring that hospital beds are used for people who need the specialist care that only our hospitals can provide.

“We all have a role in protecting our health service, so let’s all think carefully and do what we can to support our nurses, doctors and all NHS staff this winter.”

Dr Frank Atherton has described the Welch health system as the busiest he's ever seen.

The chief medical officer for Wales has told New Year's Eve revellers "don't drink too much" to help reduce pressure on the over-stretched health service.

Sir Frank Atherton told BBC One's Breakfast programme: "I agree people generally behave very sensibly. Sadly, when alcohol gets thrown into the mix, and it gets thrown in a big way in new year, that can sometimes go out of the window, and so we are asking people to behave sensibly, don't put themselves at risk, don't put others at risk, look after each other when you're out and about, don't drink too much and don't get into trouble.

"We do see that, sadly, in the UK at this time of year. Similarly, this is not the time to be putting yourself at risk with dangerous activities, anything that increases the risk to you in person, given the fact we do have delays to ambulance services and they really can only meet the needs of the most seriously ill."

Asked what activities people should avoid to reduce the risk of injury, he added: "Now is not the time to be going out and starting to do a huge long run. We want people to get fit and active in the new year, of course we do, but do it sensibly, think about pacing yourself, about not taking on too much all at once.

"Keeping yourself warm at home is really important as well, looking after your health, I know that's very difficult with the cost-of-living crisis.

"Watch out for your loved ones, make sure that people are kept safe, particularly the elderly at this time of year, that they are well hydrated at home, because people can get dehydrated very quickly, and we know that elderly people who get dehydrated then run into problems with frailty, they have falls, they need to be brought to hospital. So we can look after each other and look after ourselves and keep the NHS capacity for those who really need it."