Calls for ‘robust action’ to stop Welsh NHS being ‘overrun’ this winter

“ROBUST action” is needed to prevent the health service in Wales from being overrun during the second wave of coronavirus infections, the Welsh NHS Confederation has warned.

Amid rising hospital admissions for Covid-19, the Welsh Government is considering new national restrictions to buy the health service some time.

But this could come at a cost – the NHS Confederation said non-emergency procedures may have to be postponed if the situation continues to worsen.

“The NHS in Wales is also clear there are, and will continue to be, severe indirect consequences arising from the coronavirus pandemic,” the organisation’s director, Darren Hughes, said today (Friday). “We want people to know we understand their frustrations, and we understand how difficult this is.”

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First minister Mark Drakeford said earlier today Wales had arrived at a “critical point” in the resurgent pandemic.

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With Covid-19 “circulating widely”, ministers were “looking very carefully” at bringing in a fixed-term lockdown – dubbed a ‘circuit break’ or ‘fire break’.

Doing so would deliver a “short sharp shock to the virus… slowing down its spread and buying us more time and vital capacity in the health service”, the first minister said.

A decision on the ‘circuit-break’ will be made on Monday.

Responding to Mr Drakeford’s announcement, Welsh NHS Confederation director Darren Hughes said the health service was facing an “extremely tough winter” and people would need to continue working hard “for a good while longer” to help save lives and protect the health service.

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Official figures show around 2,500 people are being infected with Covid-19 each day, and there were more than 800 coronavirus patients in Welsh hospitals on Thursday, with critical care beds “full” according to Mr Drakeford.

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The Welsh arm of the British Medical Association (BMA), meanwhile, has welcomed news of a possible ‘circuit-break’ – not just as a means of suppressing the virus, but also to protect healthcare staff.

David Bailey, the BMA Wales council chairman, said “it’s clear that the current restrictions are not strong enough to suppress the spread of the virus”.

Dr Bailey added: “We have witnessed the destruction that the first wave of the pandemic brought with it – too many lives have been lost already and doctors, nurses and frontline health staff are still dealing with fatigue and burnout as a result of their huge sacrifices during this time.

“A second peak alongside the added pressure that the winter season will inevitably bring and the huge backlog of patients already in the system is quite frankly an overwhelming prospect. Our members are deeply concerned about the ability of the service to cope.

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“Bringing in stronger restrictions in Wales at this point is essential, but restrictions must be accompanied by a longer-term national prevention strategy.”

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