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Community hospital closures contributing to NHS crisis, says Plaid MS

13 Jan 2023 3 minute read
Llyr Gruffydd

A Plaid Cymru MS has taken aim at the Welsh Government for axing community hospitals in North Wales.

Llyr Gruffydd, who represents the region in the Senedd, told Health Minister Eluned Morgan that the controversial closure of a network of community hospitals is “contributing” to the acute crisis in the NHS.

The Minister has come under fire after the Welsh Government told health boards that some patients may need be sent home from hospital without care packages in place as demand for bed space soared.

It comes following four Welsh health boards warning of “extreme pressure” to their health and social care systems.

In response to intense pressure, which has seen ambulances sitting outside of A&E for hours and bed blocking on hospital wards, Health Minister Eluned Morgan announced the Welsh Government has secured an additional 500 community beds for step-down care.

In a speech on the floor of the Senedd, Llyr Gruffydd criticised the Welsh Government for closing community hospitals in Flint, Blaenau Ffestiniog, Prestatyn, and Llangollen and argued that it was now trying to “recreate and rebuild” capacity that it had lost.

“Regret”

He told Senedd members that the Welsh Government had been “warned” that it would “regret” closing the hospitals and asked if the Minister accepted that doing so was a “mistake”.

The closures, which were part of a shake up by Betsi Cadwaladr Health Board, were fiercely protested by local communities at the time.

In response Eluned Morgan said that the community hospitals were “very expensive to run”.

Llyr Gruffydd MS said: “You say in your statement, Minister, that 12% of bed capacity in the NHS is now full as a result of delayed discharges, and in response to that, of course, you say that you’ve secured an additional 500 community beds for step-down care. Clearly, that is to be welcomed. It would be good to hear where they are.

“As a Member in north Wales, I would be interested in hearing how many of those are in north Wales. But of course, we had a network of community hospitals that used to provide exactly this step-down service across Wales.

“That capacity was lost—the capacity that you are now trying to recreate and rebuild—when community hospitals were closed in Flint, Blaenau Ffestiniog, Prestatyn, Llangollen, and so on.

Unprecedented demand

At the time of the closures, a number of MS’s warned the system would suffer backlogs due to lost bed capacity.

Llyr Gruffydd added: “So, do you accept that it was a mistake to close those community hospitals, particularly those across north Wales? Do you regret that that happened? Because there’s no doubt that that’s contributing at least in part to the crisis that general hospitals are now facing.”

In a statement the health minster said: “Our health service is facing unprecedented demand this winter. But we know some people are staying in hospital longer than they need to. This in turn, has a severe knock-on effect for people waiting for operations and creates delays for the ambulance service.

“We have been working hard with health boards and local authorities for months to make sure we have enough community beds this winter and there is still work going on to secure more beds. I hope to be able to announce more beds soon. Through this new initiative we can not only care for people closer to home but also free up more beds in our hospitals.”


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Carol Loughlin
Carol Loughlin
23 days ago

I have been saying this for a long time. Small community hospitals are ideal for patients awaiting discharge while care packages are put in place. These patients no longer need medical care so the hospitals could be matron led and would be a massive saving for the NHS. In many cases the patients would be closer to home and therefore closer to friends and family. Sometimes bigger isn’t better.

Llyn
Llyn
23 days ago

This may be popular with voters on paper (until they see the price tag) but I would suggest that most doctors, surgeons and health specialists back centralised, large hospitals offering a range of services rather than old style community hospitals. We do need to pay more taxes and spend more on public services but Plaid really should be careful of becoming a party which comes up with endless ways of spending money.

George Bodley
George Bodley
22 days ago
Reply to  Llyn

Consistent underfunding is the problem here ,the creeping privatisation in the NHS takes away the monies that could fund cottage hospitals thus relieving pressure on beds in main hospitals .It was never a good idea to divert funds to private sector health companies to carry out work for the NHS ,that money goes straight into private coffers in short profit for health

Llyn
Llyn
22 days ago
Reply to  George Bodley

Plaid would be going against doctors, surgeons and health specialists by opening cottage hospitals. The immediate problems that need addressing are the lack of NHS staff and the state of the social care system. Diverting money to reopen or build cottage hospitals is a distraction.

George Bodley
George Bodley
22 days ago

God state the obvious why dont you .It was a stupid policy from the start to close cottage hospitals ,then again its all about central Government funding .If the uk Government kept up the funding we wouldn’t be in this position now .You cannot maintain a system if you consistently cut funding .

Last edited 22 days ago by George Bodley
Argol Fawr!
Argol Fawr!
22 days ago

Honestly, could you say Eluned Morgan looks as if she understands, let alone care!

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