New community hospitals should be opened to improve health care in north Wales.
That’s the view of Plaid Cymru’s North Wales AM Llyr Gruffydd, who was among those campaigning back in 2013 to save four community hospitals from closure.
He said the loss of Llangollen, Flint, Prestatyn and Blaenau Ffestiniog community hospitals together with more than 50 beds had been a significant blow to providing intermediate health care in the region.
Mr Gruffydd said: “Wales has lost a third of all its hospital beds in the past two decades. Latest figures from the Welsh Government show that, on average, 10,564 beds were available per day in 2018-19.
That is the lowest number since the statistics were first recorded in 1996-97 when 15,582 beds could be accessed.
“In many cases, technology means that you can go home far more quickly, and many operations that used to mean two weeks in hospital now get done in one day.
“However, there is also increasing demand and we have a growing need for a step up and step down service that the community hospitals used to offer. Closing those community hospital beds, which provided a useful intermediate service, results in bed occupancy in acute hospitals becoming longer than it should be.”
He added that the reduction in beds meant that those that were left were being occupied above the safety level: “It accepted that 85% occupancy is a safe level in terms of spreading infection. Due to the 85% threshold being broken for the past few years, Welsh hospitals are now frequently ‘unsafe’.
“The lack of community beds mean that beds in District General Hospitals are taken up by people unable to leave because of a lack of that step-down service. That, in turn, leads to delays because patients can’t be admitted to a ward, planned operations get cancelled because the beds are needed for emergency use and planned discharges can’t happen.
“It basically clogs up the system – it’s why you have poor performance in A&E. A Plaid Cymru Welsh Government would seek to rebuild and re-open community hospitals to provide step down care for people coming out of hospitals.
“Here in the North, it would mean opening community hospitals to make up for the losses back in 2013 and to take pressure off our three main hospitals in Bangor, Bodelwyddan and Wrexham.”
The Royal College of Emergency Medicine (RCEM) estimates that at least 250 more hospital beds are needed in Wales to get occupancy rates back to safe levels.
Vice President Dr Jo Mower said: “Annual data published shows a gradual decline in the number of available beds in hospitals across Wales. To deliver patient care to an increasingly growing and ageing population NHS Wales must invest in additional staffed beds in hospitals and in the community to alleviate overcrowding in emergency departments.”