Wales’ health chiefs call for help to ‘relieve’ NHS pressure over New Year’s weekend
Health chiefs in Wales have called for people to act to “relieve pressure” on NHS services in Wales over the New Year weekend.
New Year is usually the busiest time of year for the NHS, particularly in emergency departments and this year is expected to be busier still.
Three health boards, Swansea Bay, Betsi Cadwaladr and Hywel Dda, have already reported coming under extreme pressure due to a jump in cases of flu, Covid, and several other viral respiratory infections.
Wales has also seen a sharp rise in the number of people with respiratory infections being admitted to hospitals over the past month.
Health boards have asked people not to visit relatives or friends in hospital if they have flu-like symptoms, to protect patients and staff as a result.
Judith Bryce, Assistant Director of Operations at the Welsh Ambulance Service, said: “New Year’s Eve is traditionally very busy for us and this year is likely to be no exception given the level of demand we have seen so far this month.
“The number of immediately life-threatening ‘Red’ calls we’ve had in the last seven days was 62% higher than the same period last year, while demand on our 111 service has more than doubled compared to last year.
“The health system is under significant pressure currently and we all have a part to play in ensuring that we protect our precious resources for those who need them most – please act responsibly and help us to help you.
“Remember that 999 is for emergencies so if it’s not an emergency but you need medical help or want reassurance, the NHS 111 Wales website should be your first port of call for advice, information and next steps.”
With assaults on emergency workers also continuing to rise, the Trust has asked the public to treat crews with respect.
Ms Bryce said: “We know it’s distressing when you’re waiting for help, but abusing our call handlers is not the answer – if anything, it could potentially delay help.
“And on the road, crews might have no choice but to leave a scene if their safety is compromised, and that’s not helpful for anyone, especially the patient.
“Emergency workers are normal human beings just trying to do a job – they’re there to help you, so please treat them with the respect they deserve.
Jonathan Edwards, Assistant Director of Operations at the Welsh Ambulance Service, said: “We know how frustrating this is when you or your loved one is unwell and we would like to thank the public for their patience as our call handlers work as quickly as possible to answer as many calls as possible.
“For fast, free and trusted health advice and information, it is more important than ever that people visit NHS 111 Wales where you can check your symptoms to find out what’s wrong and the next steps to take.”
“Help us help you by only calling 111 if it’s urgent to keep lines clear for those most in need of our help.”
Patients needing repeat prescriptions are being advised to visit a community pharmacy when they are next open.
Chief Executive of the Welsh NHS, Judith Paget added: “This winter our NHS is facing demand like we’ve never seen before. It’s absolutely vital therefore that we all think carefully about what we do as individuals to reduce pressure on our health service.
“Our Emergency Departments especially are there to help those who need the most urgent care in the shortest possible time, so please consider whether you need to attend, or if there are alternative options, such as visiting the NHS 111 Wales website.
“We can also prepare for minor illnesses or injuries by ensuring we have essential medicines available in our homes, such as paracetamol, and a first aid kit, should we need it.
“Thank you also to families who have supported the discharge of their loved ones so they could be home for Christmas. The ongoing support of families in this way helps us greatly in ensuring that hospital beds are used for people who need the specialist care that only our hospitals can provide.
“We all have a role in protecting our health service, so let’s all think carefully and do what we can to support our nurses, doctors and all NHS staff this winter.”
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