Could field hospitals alleviate the pressures on the NHS across Wales?

Cardiff's Dragon's Heart Hospital was the second biggest field hospital in the UK, behind London's Nightingale hospital. Credit: PA Images

There are no plans to bring back field hospitals amid an "incredibly challenging" time for the Welsh NHS, the Chief Executive of NHS Wales has told ITV Cymru Wales.

Field hospitals were used across Wales during the pandemic to offer more staff and bed capacity when demand on health services was at its highest. Some experts have suggested they could be reopened to be used for social care.But despite most health boards across Wales reporting significant pressure on their services, the Welsh NHS' top boss Judith Paget said that the country is "not in the stage that we need field hospitals."

Speaking to ITV Wales' Political Editor Adrian Masters, she dismissed the idea that the Welsh NHS would turn to similar measures to those taken during the pandemic, such re-opening field hospitals, bringing back retired health care workers on a large scale and deploying military professionals."We've certainly have had people come back to join us over the course of the last week," Ms Paget said."Some retired workers. We've redeployed people from more back-room functions into working alongside frontline colleagues. So some of the things that we did before we have done.

"We're not in the stage that we need field hospitals."

Chief Executive of NHS Wales, Judith Paget, speaks to ITV Wales' Political Editor Adrian Masters.

It comes as a number of Welsh health boards, such as Swansea Bay UHB and Cwm Taf Morgannwg UHB, are reporting that a significant number of their beds are occupied by patients who are "fit" to leave hospitals.

According to Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board, it has been facing "challenges to discharge patients from hospital to suitable accommodation or care services."

Although there have been growing calls for urgent investment in the social care sector in recent days, Ms Paget claimed that we are unlikely to see the likes of "field care homes" opening.

"Care homes are there. We've commissioned additional beds from the care homes that we've got," she said.

The NHS is under "unprecedented" strain due to Covid and flu infections, the Welsh Government says. Credit: PA

"We're talking to care home providers about what additional support we might be able to provide. And we clearly want to work alongside the sector, both in terms of the care home sector, the residential sector and the domiciliary sector, to do whatever we can to support people."

This week, Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board reported a level 5 "critical internal incident," leading them to postpone "all but the most urgent procedures and appointments" on Tuesday (January 3).It is one level below level 6, "potential service failure," which is usually enacted in the event of a pandemic.

At the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, The Welsh Government announced that it was opening dozens of field hospitals at a cost of £166m.

Dragon's Heart Hospital had 300 beds, with space to expand to up to 2,000. Credit: Abigail Harris

Nineteen field hospitals were eventually established around Wales in a matter of weeks, increasing provision for around 10,000 additional beds.

They included Ysbyty Calon y Ddraig/Dragon's Heart Hospital at the Principality Stadium and the Bay Field Hospital, based within the Bay Studios complex – all of which have now been decommissioned.