Vaughan Gething AM, Minister for Health and Social Services
This week has seen a significant increase in the pace and urgency of the response from our vital health and care services across Wales to the imminent challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Sadly, we continue to see the expected increase in deaths and people that are critically ill. My deepest condolences and thoughts continue to be with all those affected at this extremely difficult time.
Last week I set out a range of significant developments to enhance our COVID-19 preparedness. We continue to build on the Welsh Government’s existing pandemic plans. The pandemic plans have been the basis of the work of our NHS and social care services to increase the capacity of local services, beds and workforce availability. The social distancing and shielding interventions are crucial to reducing and flattening the peak of infection. This is essential to creating the time for our NHS to reach the levels of readiness required in order to care for COVID-19 patients over the coming days and weeks. If the public do not continue to support social distancing and shielding then our NHS could be overwhelmed and more lives needlessly lost. Every step that each of us take will make a difference to saving lives.
I particularly want to highlight the number of beds that are rapidly being created through partnerships across our NHS, public and private sectors that will create an additional capacity in the region of 7,000 beds in field hospitals once they are all established. This is a massive increase on our existing capacity in a very short period of time. It is now critical that we operationalise them with the pace and urgency needed to meet the expected high levels of demand.
Health Boards across Wales have plans in place for the following increases in capacity and continue to explore other options:
Cardiff and Vale
I have already announced that the Principality Stadium in Cardiff & Vale University Health Board will provide space for up to 2000 additional beds. Cardiff and Vale have secured a further 60 beds through a partnership with Spire bringing their total to 2060 beds.
I announced last week that the opening of Grange University Hospital in the Aneurin Bevan University Health Board has been brought forward and over the coming weeks will have created an additional 350 beds. The health board has secured a further 36 beds through their partnership with St Joseph’s Hospital in Newport to reach a total to 386 additional beds.
Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board has agreed with the Conwy County Borough Council that Venue Cymru in Llandudno will be used to create approximately 350 beds. Spire hospital in Wrexham is contributing 27 beds, the Deeside Leisure centre will accommodate 246 beds and Bangor University has provided capacity for a further 250 beds. This is a total increase of 873 beds within the health board.
Cwm Taf Morgannwg
Cwm Taf Morgannwg University Health Board has secured 27 beds at the Vale hospital in Hensol and 270 at the Vale WRU resource centre. A further 150 beds at Ty Trevithick in Abercynon and 462 Care home and community beds have been contributed. This makes a total 909 extra beds.
Hywel Dda University Health Board is working with a range of partners to develop sites across the region. Parc y Scarlets is set to accommodate 368 beds and Bluestone in Pembrokeshire 128 beds. The Selwyn Samuel Centre in Llanelli will provide capacity for a further 143 beds and Werndale hospital in Carmarthen will have space for 30 beds. These will create additional capacity of 669 beds in total.
Powys University Health Board is continuing to explore opportunities to create additional beds in its communities and to contribute to the overall increase in surge capacity.
Swansea Bay UHB has announced that it has started work on transforming a number of key sites. They will provide up to 1,489 beds in total. These will be at Llandarcy Academy of Sport with 360 beds; Bay Studios in Swansea will accommodate a further 1080 beds and Sancta Maria Hospital will provide 29 beds.
This increased capacity reflects an important milestone in our NHS preparedness but there is more to do. Other site options remain under consideration as we rapidly implement and operationalise those that are confirmed. Further capacity is being reviewed by Health Boards and they continue to explore options in all areas of Wales with a number of plans currently under consideration. Once plans are finalised I will provide a further update.
In addition to these impressive partnerships to expand NHS bed capacity there is equally impressive work going on in social care and at community level to provide care for those that need support locally.
I would like to acknowledge the role of businesses, independent hospitals, private and voluntary sector partners in Wales for their contribution to this amazing collective effort in the fight against COVID-19.
We are fortunate to have expert logistical and planning support from the military that is already helping to bring even greater rigour, pace and focus to deal with this public health emergency. The military will be supporting Welsh Government, health boards, Velindre NHS Trust and the Welsh Ambulance Services Trust in the days, weeks and months ahead.
I have been overwhelmed by the response of the health and care professionals to the calls we have made for their support. 1300 recently retired professionals responded, thousands of trainees are lining up to support the NHS and GPs and the 1200 registered GP locums are all being harnessed in this most unprecedented situation. This is a humbling reminder of the commitment of our health and care staff. I would urge other health and care professionals that can make a contribution to consider re-registering or make contact with their professional bodies.
In these most sombre of times it would be easy to forget what has been achieved within just a matter of weeks and the huge progress that has been made in preparing our NHS and social care services for the COVID-19 pandemic. We will be relentless in our preparations for the days and weeks ahead but it is important to recognise what has already been done as a result of a committed national effort.
Our health and care staff, volunteers and businesses in Wales, and indeed across the UK, are coming together in exceptional ways to meet this extraordinary crisis to care for people, prepare services and to protect communities. Every single contribution will help save lives and I am truly thankful to everyone involved.
We are seeing an emerging pattern of spread of coronavirus broadly from east to west. This may mean that some parts of Wales will see earlier peaks that elsewhere in the country. It is nevertheless important that we remain vigilant where ever we are to protect the entire population but particularly to shield those at greatest risk.
Thank you to everyone in Wales playing your part in this fight.
Please help to protect yourselves and the community around you. Stay at home. Protect our NHS. Save lives.