A CALL is being made to improve patient ‘flow’ at Ysbyty Glan Clwyd and Ysbyty Gwynedd by transferring individuals ‘bed-blocking’ to smaller hospitals.
Janet Finch-Saunders, MS for Aberconwy, reacted following the latest NHS performance statistics (published on Thursday, October 20) that highlighted in September, 10.2 per cent of all calls to the ambulance service were red calls (life-threatening), an increase compared to August and on average more than 100 immediately life-threatening calls made each day.
To reduce pressures on the ambulance service and to tackle long waiting times outside A&E, Mrs Finch-Saunder is urging Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board (BCUHB) to transfer patients ‘bed blocking’ to smaller hospitals and re-introduce the bridging service [which saw patients transferred to Llandudno hosptital last winter from major hospitals to free up bed spaces].
“There is no doubt that the NHS is under considerable, sustained strain even before we head into winter,” Mrs Finch-Saunders said. “As the director of the Welsh NHS Confederation has said, the statistics show continuing high levels of demand, including a high percentage of life-threatening calls to the ambulance service, mirroring what NHS leaders are saying about more patients coming forward with more acute needs requiring advanced care.
“I am aware that in some hospitals in Wales there are considerable delays in the patient pathway, with nearly half of hospital beds taken up by those clinically fit to be discharged. Bed-blocking means that fewer operations can take place, fewer beds are available for patients coming into emergency departments, and less capacity for ambulances.
“Last winter we had a bridging service at Llandudno Hospital which saw patients transferred there from major hospitals so to free up bed spaces. That scheme should be re-established in Llandudno, and other smaller hospitals across North Wales urgently”.
When asking BCUHB for a response to Mrs Finch-Saunders comments, a spokesperson said the MS had failed to regonise of the pressures within the social care sector and the significant impact this is having on the NHS.
The politician hit back: “I am disappointed with the health board’s response. They know fully well that I am aware that patients medically fit for discharge do not need to be in any hospital, however, as I have made clear on several occasions, given that the social care crisis is delaying discharge, and patients are therefore bed blocking, it is common sense to move some from major hospitals like Gwynedd and Glan Clwyd, to community hospitals like Llandudno.
“The health board needs to improve the flow of patients through its major hospitals. Nobody can easily resolve the social care crisis, so one of the best options we have in North Wales is to have bridging wards in hospitals like Llandudno, where patients medically fit for discharge, but cannot go home, are sent until a care package is available.
“Overcentralising patients and services in the three major hospitals is causing unmanageable pressure and delays in our health board. It would be in the best interest of patients, staff, and the Ambulance Trust, if bridging schemes were established in Llandudno and other community hospitals across North Wales this winter.
“I would be pleased if the health board could explore this positive proposal”.
BCUHB say the bridging service at Llandudno was a “short-term project” in place as part of a winter initiative in 2021.
Gill Harris, deputy chief executive and executive director of Integrated Clinical Services, said: “A hospital is not the right environment for patients who are deemed medically fit for discharge. We know that the longer a patient stays in hospital, the more their physical and mental health can deteriorate, as well as their risk of hospital acquired infection.
“The root cause of the majority of delayed discharged of medically fit patients is a lack of capacity within social care. Even if creating additional capacity in community hospitals was an appropriate response to this issue, this would not be possible due to the significant staffing challenges that we continue to face.
“The difficulty in discharging medically fit patients has an impact on not only the number of beds available on our sites, but also impacts on planned surgery being able to go ahead and lengthy ambulance waits outside our Emergency Departments, which means that paramedics are unable to respond to other emergency calls in our communities.
“We are working with our local authority partners to ensure that the appropriate support is in place to enable medically fit patients to be discharged from hospital in a timely manner.”