Health board declares critical incident amid ‘unprecedented’ number of patients

A Welsh health board has declared a critical incident as it tackles an “unprecedented” number of patients entering its hospitals.

Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board, which covers counties in North Wales, said on Monday it had been inundated with people needing emergency care, leading to a shortage of beds and long waiting times.

It came as a number of hospitals across the country appealed to the public not to attend A&Es unless their illness or injury is life-threatening.

Betsi Cadwaladr has cancelled all planned procedures and appointments on Tuesday, except for those deemed most urgent. Those scheduled for Wednesday are currently still going ahead.

In a statement the health board said: “We have announced an internal critical incident this morning as we struggle to cope with the unprecedented increased demand across the health and social care system.

“There is a high number of patients coming to our hospitals at the moment with flu, Covid and other respiratory viruses, as well as an increase in those patients who have sustained serious injuries or patients who are not well and need care.

“This, in addition to a lack of beds in our hospitals, and a significant lack in our staffing numbers, leads to an extremely long wait for patients to be seen – especially the emergency departments of our hospitals. Other health boards and trusts in England face similar pressures.

“This is an extremely challenging time for colleagues across the health service and we are extremely grateful for the ongoing efforts that are being made in difficult circumstances.”

People are being advised to use the NHS 111 Wales website which will help them determine whether they need self-care at home, a visit to a pharmacy, an appointment with a GP, a trip to a minor injuries unit, or a hospital emergency department.

The trust said it is working with local authorities to enable people to be discharged as soon as they are ready.

Among the hospitals affected are Glan Cwlyd, Ysbyty Gwynedd and Wrexham Maelor.

Swansea Bay NHS Trust put out a warning to people not to attend Morrison Hospital’s A&E department unless their condition is life-threatening, due to long waits, and advised people to use the minor injuries unit at Neath Port Talbot Hospital.

Hospitals across the border in Gloucestershire have put out a similar appeal saying staff are under “unprecedented pressure”.