The figures, released following a series of Freedom of Information requests, shows that in October 2009 the Betsi Cadwaladr Health Board had 2677 in-patient beds and employed 6276 nurses. By October 2014 the figures were 2284 in-patient beds, a 15% fall, and 5907 nurses, a 6% drop.
Wrexham Maelor Hospital saw a drop of 50 beds coupled with the closure of Flint and Llangollen community hospitals during that period (1).
At the same time, the number of inpatient cases in North Wales rose from 80,867 to 86,249 – a 6.7% rise. But in Wrexham Maelor the rise in the past year alone has been 15% - from 26331 to 30409.
Plaid Cymru’s North Wales AM Llyr Gruffydd said that such a reduction in beds and nursing staff was contributing to the difficulties the NHS was facing in terms of coping with a growing elderly population and ensuring there were beds for those brought in by ambulance to A&E.
Mr Gruffydd said: “Closing wards such as the Acton ward in the Wrexham Maelor , coupled with the loss of many community hospitals, help explain why we are seeing long queues of ambulances outside our main hospitals and why people waiting so long for operations.
“The health board claims that nurse recruitment is the problem but nurses tell us they’ve applied to work Bank shifts and not heard back from the board. Instead, we’re seeing expensive agency nurses being recruited when we need longer-term planning in terms of workforce recruitment and retention.”
He was also critical of the health board’s claims that care was now focussed in the community: “These cuts in hospital services would be easier to stomach if we had seen an equivalent increase in funding for community care and GPs, but the truth is that we are facing a looming crisis in GP and primary-care services. I fear GP shortages will be the ‘health story’ of 2015, unless something drastic is done about it.
“Care at a hospital might be an out-dated concept for health bosses who want to see more care delivered at home but, until the structure and provisions are in place to ensure that home-care is functioning properly and can be delivered within budget, then there is a real danger that the system will fail if they reduce the number of beds and nurses.
“In recent years, Labour has underfunded the NHS in Wales and, as a result, we have seen a health service struggling to meet demand, which is rising with every new medical breakthrough and with a population that is living longer. The Cardiff Labour Government is presiding over an NHS that employs fewer nurses and has fewer facilities than it did five years ago – that’s a huge indictment of their misrule.”
* See the statistics at:
* In a related story local health services campaigner Martin Crumpton has contacted llanblogger to say:
“The current BBC website story in which an emergency medicine consultant has blamed a drop in his hospital's performance on a lack of capacity in parts of the region shows that at last, somebody with a voice they can’t ignored has told them what I’ve been saying all along, but studiously ignored. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-north-east-wales-30863360“As llanblogger readers will know, this confirms everything I’ve been campaigning against since our Cottage Hospital and others were closed. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve written to the Board of Betsi Cadwaladr urging them to reopen our hospital and others in North Wales so misguidedly, reprehensibly and disastrously shut in the now-infamous `North Wales Health Is Changing’ debacle.
“Blaming this on internecine political wars between the Welsh and English NHS authorities is nothing short of ludicrous and is procrastination instead of action. Last week, I watched the Parliamentary Select Committee in which it was made crystal clear that the NHS cannot un-knot itself from the bed shortage without a sharp and immediate increase in bed capacity – well, the capacity was there all along until the bean counters of the loathed Mary Burrows regime decided they could spreadsheet their way to major savings.
“And it’s going to get worse because of the same ill-thought-out policy: When the GP practice and the chemist move to the wholly-unnecessary new and bedless Health Centre at the far edge of Llangollen, are going to react instinctively and dial 999 if they develop worrying symptoms or their children sustain deep cuts. It’s human nature, especially where children are involved. Ambulances DO NOT take people to clinics or Minor Injury Units, only to hospital A&E.
“Llangollen is an elderly town with a high proportion of residents without private transport. For the majority, it’s relatively quick and easy to get to the Regent Street Health Centre for worries and minor injuries. Anyone’s understanding of human nature and physical capability will know that the River Lodge site is beyond reach if you don’t have a car, and you’ll certainly think twice about leaving blood or vomit all over a taxi, if you can afford one – if you can risk waiting for one, as they’re not bound by NHS target times to arrive.
“Something I find genuinely disturbing is the silence coming from the doctors at the Regent Street Health Centre. To date they’ve only given one statement - they opposed the closure of the Cottage Hospital.
“I ask the doctors to reconsider moving to the new health centre, and to put their weight into helping the campaign to have the Cottage Hospital re-opened. There cannot be a better outcome for us and North Wales at this time.”