Covid-era cuts to hospital’s opening hours made permanent
Nicholas Thomas Local Democracy ReporterCuts to a hospital’s opening hours have been made permanent because there aren’t enough patients to justify a return to 24/7 treatment of injuries.
Ysbyty Ystrad Fawr hospital in Ystrad Mynach serves as one of Aneurin Bevan University Health Board’s four minor injuries units (MIUs), which together receive around half of Gwent’s urgent and emergency care patients.
The health board paused 24-hour treatment at Ysbyty Ystrad Fawr MIU in March 2020, as the NHS geared up to deal with the new threat of Covid-19.
At a board meeting on Wednesday January 24, Aneurin Bevan’s public board confirmed it would make that change permanent.
Going forward, the MIU’s opening hours will continue to be 7am-1am, seven days a week.
A spokesperson for Aneurin Bevan University Health Board said the decision was made after an “extensive” consultation with the public “in recognition of the low overnight patient demand at some MIU sites”.
A report to the public board shows that between April 2022 and August 2023, the MIU at Ysbyty Ystrad Fawr saw between 51 and 90 patients per day.
This equates to roughly three patients per hour, based on the hospital’s opening hours.
The report noted “a significant imbalance between opening hours and patient demand” across Aneurin Bevan’s MIUs.
At the meeting, the board also decided to reduce the opening hours of Nevill Hall Hospital’s MIU, in Abergavenny, to the same 7am-1am window as Ysbyty Ystrad Fawr.
The MIU at the Royal Gwent Hospital, Newport, will continue to run 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and the opening hours at Ysbyty Aneurin Bevan, in Ebbw Vale, will remained unchanged (9am-7pm, Monday-Friday, excluding bank holidays).
These changes to Gwent’s MIUs will “ensure this valuable resource” is used “as effectively as possible”, the health board spokesperson said.
“For those individuals who do access minor injuries provision between the hours of 1am and 7am, the majority would be suitable to wait until the unit opened at 7am,” the spokesperson said of Ysbyty Ystrad Fawr’s MIU. “Support and advice remain available via 111, and 24-hour provision is provided at the Royal Gwent Hospital.”
The health board spokesperson said the original reduction in opening hours at Ysbyty Ystrad Fawr’s MIU had been “necessary to ensure staffing resilience during a time of workforce challenges – which were further [exacerbated] by Covid-19 sickness – and to protect our patients, staff and services”.
Hefin David, MS for Caerphilly, said: “As we know, the Health Board and the NHS as a whole, is under serious pressures at the moment. Unfortunately, that means making these difficult decisions to ensure the sustainability of crucial front-line services”.
“As always, I will take up individual cases from constituents on this and would encourage those with concerns to email me directly”
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