STAFF shortages mean palliative care for dying patients is currently scaled back at Wrexham Maelor Hospital.

A memo to all staff from Carol Roberts, lead nurse for specialist and palliative care and quality, sent on August 20 and seen by the Leader, says staffing levels are "critical", currently at "34 per cent" and temporary cutbacks have been made to the service.

There will be no weekend service during this time and patients will not be offered direct visits from the Specialist Palliative Care Team (SPCT).

The memo states: "The Specialist Palliative Care Nursing Team is currently experiencing critical staffing levels (34 per cent) which is expected to continue for the next two weeks.

"In order to maintain an effective and safe specialist palliative care service, the following changes will be implemented from August 20 and will be reviewed each day.

"Please note: there continues to be no weekend service available at the present time.

"We apologise for any inconvenience and hope to resume a normal service as soon as possible."

The memo states that all 'referrers' to the service are to consider the service criteria and urgency of the referral.

Urgent referrals are those that require a response within two days and are for uncontrolled escalating symptoms which have not responded to generalist intervention.

Other non-urgent referrals will be triaged and will be responded to within the 10 days criteria.

Patients are not to be offered a direct visit/contact on behalf of the SPCT, the team will discuss with the referrer in the first instance, and agree a plan of care.

There will be no bleep in the system for two weeks and the SPCT are being asked to use the office line.

All referrals must be faxed to the team office prior to visit, phone advice is available each day and for out of hours, the contact is Nightingale House.

Rob Smith, East Area Director for Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board, said: “We are currently experiencing temporary staff shortages within the Specialist Palliative Care Team.

“We would like to reassure patients that plans are in place in order to maintain a safe and responsive service for the next two weeks until staffing levels are improved."