Concerns raised about poor access to hospital care in south-east Wales
Chris Haines, ICNN Senedd reporter
Plaid Cymru MS Delyth Jewell has warned poor access to hospital care in south-east Wales is putting people’s lives at risk.
Ms Jewell issued the warning during a Senedd debate about the difficulty of getting to hospitals in her South Wales East region.
She highlighted the experience of constituents, such as Huw Evans, who suffered a haemorrhage with no warning signs earlier this year.
Dr Evans’ wife phoned an ambulance but was told the wait would be three hours.
“As my wife pointed out to the operator, I would be dead by the time an ambulance arrived,” Ms Jewell quoted him as saying.
“We had no choice other than for my wife to get me from home to the Grange in her car.”
Dr Evans raised concerns about the emphasis on patients getting themselves to A&E, saying: “The ambulance service has lost control over managing its emergency response.
“So, the rationale of ambulances and quick-response paramedics getting to people quickly and maybe obviating the need for people to turn up to A&E has collapsed, with people racing around the area in their own cars, conveying patients who should be in a blue-light vehicle.
“I was lucky.
“People must be dying because they cannot access the appropriate emergency healthcare.”
Ms Jewell also quoted a consultant, from Merthyr Tydfil, who said access to health care is severely compromised due to dangerously low staffing levels, poor working conditions, underpaid, overworked staff, a lack of beds and lack of resources.
The centralisation of services has made access to specialties worse, said the consultant.
Ms Jewell, who was born in Caerphilly District Miners’ Hospital, said people were promised a replacement general hospital when it closed in 2011.
“That plan was downgraded,” she said. “And Ysbyty Ystrad Fawr has become a minor injuries hospital.”
She also highlighted that there is not an A&E in the Rhymney valley.
She has been contacted by constituents living in Caerphilly who have had to go to Nevill Hall Hospital, while another in Abergavenny had appointments at Ysbyty Ystrad Fawr.
The deputy leader of Plaid Cymru said: “Now, if people don’t have access to a car, which is more prevalent, of course, in communities like the valleys, then it’s even more difficult.”
She pointed to evidence from the Royal College of Emergency Medicine which found that Aneurin Bevan University Health Board is the worst performing for four-hour waits.
Ms Jewell said about half of patients are waiting less than four hours but it was 66% in 2019 and 85% in 2015.
Pointing out that bed occupancy for Wales is about 95% but it averaged 98% in the first six half of 2023 in Gwent, she warned: “There is just so little space for anything to go wrong.”
Peredur Owen Griffiths, also a Plaid Cymru MS for South Wales East, raised concerns about public transport, citing his own family’s experience.
He said a family member wanted to use public transport to get to Griffithstown hospital from Caerphilly for an out-patient’s appointment.
But he warned: “It was virtually impossible to get there by the time required.”
Eluned Morgan said the opening of the Grange University Hospital was a fundamental milestone and the health board continues to reflect on its impact.
“There has been a massive increase in demand – a massive increase in demand,” the health minister told the debate on Wednesday November 15.
“The ageing population is putting pressure on the NHS like we’ve never seen before.
“We have a sicker population, so despite the fact that we’ve got more doctors than ever, more nurses, more allied healthcare professionals – it’s not meeting the demand.”
Baroness Morgan highlighted new urgent primary care centres at the Royal Gwent, Nevill Hall and Ysbyty Ystrad Fawr, leading to 1,400 fewer patients a month going to A&E.
She raised public engagement on proposals to reduce Nevill Hall Hospital’s opening hours from 24 to 18 and make temporary arrangements at Ysbyty Ystrad Fawr permanent.
“The community is very upset about it,” she said. “But we’ve also got to think about efficiencies and how we get the maximum for the amount of money that we’re investing.”
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