Welsh NHS faces a ‘difficult period’

Wales is at a ‘critical moment’ and it is ‘more important than ever’ to follow the rules, says Chief Medical Officer.

At the Welsh Government press conference on January 6, a clear message was sent out to the people of Wales.

Coronavirus is still rapidly spreading through communities and is putting immense pressures on our NHS services.

Chief Medical Officer Dr Frank Atherton said there is ‘good news’ about the Pfizer and Oxford vaccines which are speeding up the vaccination programmes across the UK.

He added this ‘potentially offers a way out’ of the pandemic but it will ‘take quite a while’ to protect everyone who needs it.

He urged the public that ‘as we face a different future’, it was ‘really important’ to continue meeting the challenges of the virus which is ‘moving very quickly across the UK’.

Dr Atherton said: “It is more important than ever we follow these rules. We are at a critical moment in Wales and across the UK.”

The Chief Medical Officer said the situation in Wales is ‘very serious’ and all parts of Wales is seeing high rates.

He said the seven-day average for Wales was 480 per 100,000 which is ‘way too high’ and rates are rising particularly in the North in Wrexham and Flintshire,

He mentioned two reasons for this, population mixing and the new strain.

But Dr Atherton warned that one in four Covid tests are coming back as positive which shows the virus is ‘widespread in communities’.

He added he was concerned about the increasing rates in the over 60’s which would lead to more serious infections and hospitalisations.

Dr Atherton said the new strain being highly infectious was one of the reasons himself and other Chief Medical Officers announced the move to enter the UK into the highest risk level of 5.

Dr Andrew Goodall the Director General for Health and Social Services and the NHS Wales Chief Executive who is responsible for overseeing the delivery and performance of the NHS in Wales said community transmission leads to hospital admissions and deaths.

Covid patients are more likely to spend longer in hospital than other admissions with half of COVID-19 patients expected to stay in for two-weeks and a quarter expected to stay in for three-weeks.

This means the beds are occupied for longer.

Dr Goodall said across hospitals in Wales there are four-levels of escalations and there are 16 hospitals currently reporting risk levels of three or four. Six hospitals are at level 4.

He said the NHS is working hard to balance winter and emergency pressures with the demand of increasing numbers of people seriously ill with Covid-19.

He went on the say the NHS is very challenged at the moment and faces a ‘difficult period’. He said this is always the ‘most challenging year’, but with the pandemic pressures this makes it more ‘intense’.

There are currently almost 2,800 people in hospital with Covid-19, four per cent higher than last week and there are 140 patients in critical care.

Dr Goodall said if admissions continue, we will be at twice the peak we saw in April and two health boards are already seeing 50 per cent bed capacity.

He said intensive care units are ‘under enormous pressure’ and critical care capacity is operating at 140 per cent its normal occupancy.

The increase in demand means an effect on other NHS services and ‘difficult choices being made’.

Dr Goodall said there are ‘real concerns of the NHS being overwhelmed’ as it is ‘under immense pressure’.

He urged people to not delay getting help for urgent care and encouraged people for non-urgent care to use alternative services.

He said: “We need to act together.”

Dr Goodall added if we do not work together, we would ‘overwhelm the NHS’.

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