All non-urgent surgery and outpatient clinics in parts of South Wales suspended

17 December 2020, 15:17 | Updated: 17 December 2020, 16:24

The main entrance to a field hospital in Wales, which is located in Bridgend and run by Cwm Taf Morgannwg University Health BoardYsbyty'r Seren
The main entrance to a field hospital in Wales, which is located in Bridgend and run by Cwm Taf Morgannwg University Health BoardYsbyty'r Seren. Picture: PA

By Matt Drake

All non-urgent surgery and outpatient clinics in parts of South Wales have been suspended due to a rise in Covid-19 cases.

Cwm Taf Morgannwg University Health Board said it has suspended non-urgent care at its hospitals following increased pressure on services in Bridgend, Rhondda Cynon Taf and Merthyr Tydfil.

It said in a statement: "Across the health board there are 419 suspected, confirmed or recovering Covid-19 patients in our hospitals and our intensive care beds are currently near capacity.

"We have more than 50 patients in our temporary hospital Ysbyty'r Seren. Many of our health and social care staff are off work with Covid-19 and this brings additional challenges in delivering our services.

"For that reason, on December 16 Cwm Taf Morgannwg took the difficult decision to begin to stand down some services and to redeploy staff from these services to assist in maintaining core and emergency services across the health board."

Read more: Wales Christmas Covid rules: What is a Christmas bubble and what are level 4 restrictions?

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Urgent cancer services and other urgent patients will be seen, however.

The move comes after the Welsh government limited household mixing at Christmas.

It also revealed the country will go back into lockdown before the new year.

Meanwhile, the central government has refused to rule out another lockdown.

NHS figures now show there were 4.4million people waiting for routine treatments in England in October.

Around 162,999 people have been waiting more than 52 weeks for their appointment, which is the highest since May 2008 and 100 times more than last year.

Charities have said the statistics "suggest the backlog for care is worse than expected" and the effects will be felt for years to come.

Tracey Loftis, head of policy at the charity Versus Arthritis said last week: "The elective surgery backlog figures paint an incredibly bleak picture, not just for this winter but into next year too.

"We are deeply concerned about the NHS' ability to deliver planned care with added winter pressures and the challenges of the pandemic."

First Minister Mark Drakeford addressed the "pressure" on NHS Wales and people being forced to wait for long periods of time in ambulances.

He said: "Wales is prepared, but what you are seeing in those very difficult pictures is the impact that coronavirus is having on the ability of the health service to do all the other things we wanted to do.

"We have 2,100 people in hospital beds today in Wales suffering from coronavirus - that's the same as five full district general hospitals.

"When you have pressure in the system in that way, it makes it very difficult for the health service to do everything else."

In addition, a major London health trust has said it is deferring some routine proceduresas it treats high numbers of Covid-19 patients.

Barts Health NHS Trust, which serves around 2.5 million people in east London, said it has moved to the "high pressure" phase of its winter escalation plan.

A Barts Health spokesman said: "We are treating high numbers of patients with Covid-19, and in line with our winter escalation plan we have moved into a 'high pressure' phase and are taking steps to keep our patients safe.

"These include deferring some routine procedures over the coming days so we can redeploy staff and increase the number of critical care and general beds available."

The trust, which operates across four major hospital sites The Royal London, St Bartholomew's, Whipps Cross and Newham, said the plan will not affect cancer patients and that people will be contacted directly if their elective procedures need to be postponed.

Some non-urgent operations have been postponed by Mid and South Essex NHS Foundation Trust.

The trust's deputy chief executive Tom Abell said they are dealing with a rising number of coronavirus patients and urged people to follow the rules.

He said: "The hospital is open and patients should attend planned appointments and procedures as normal unless we contact them to say otherwise.

"The number of Covid-19 patients we're caring for is increasing and it's vital that our patients and the local community follow the national guidance to help keep people safe.

"Please follow lockdown measures, social distance, sanitise your hands and wear face coverings - following these rules will help ensure that our trust and our staff can safely treat everyone who needs our care this winter."

While some non-urgent operations have been postponed, cancer care is unaffected.

The trust said surgery will continue to be prioritised based on clinical need.