A LACK of available beds across hospitals in North Wales is leading to unprecedented ambulance delays across Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board (BCUHB). 

BCUHB has declared internal critical incident; the health board is struggling to cope with the "prolonged and significant demand" on the health system.

As a result, all but the most urgent procedures across the hospital sites [including Glan Clwyd Hospital, Ysbyty Gwynedd and Wrexham Maelor], have been postponed.

Gill Harris, Interim Chief Executive at BCUHB, said: "We regret that this will impact on a number of patients who were due to receive planned care over the next few days and sincerely apologise to all those affected, who will be rescheduled as soon as possible.

"The demand on services right across the health system over recent days has been unprecedented due to a combination of winter viruses, parents seeking help due to concerns about Strep A and injuries associated with the cold weather. This has meant extremely long waits for patients to be seen – particularly at our hospital Emergency Departments.

"The Royal College of Nursing industrial action that is due to take place again tomorrow and the Wales Ambulance Service action on Wednesday will limit our ability to respond even further.

"This is an exceptionally challenging time for colleagues across our health services and we are hugely grateful for the continued efforts being made in such difficult circumstances."

BCUHB is working with the local authority in order to support "medically fit" patients to be discharged from hospital.

Similar pressures are being experienced in other health boards and English Trusts.

Ms Harris said: "We are working hard to plan and prepare for how we continue to run urgent services during the upcoming days of industrial action.

"Discussions with unions are ongoing to ensure that there are sufficient numbers of appropriately qualified staff available for areas where the failure to provide services would result in a direct danger to life.

"Staff working in these services will be able to strike only if there is sufficient cover available to ensure patient safety.


"As last week, we will contact patients directly if any services they are due to access on days of industrial action are affected."

BCUHB is urging members of the public who need help to contact 111 in the first instance to be advised about the most appropriate service, which might be self-care at home, a visit to the pharmacy, a GP appointment, a Minor Injuries Unit or, in life threatening circumstances, the hospital Emergency Department.

Ms Harris added: "As always, our Emergency Departments will remain open and will see patients in order of clinical priority.

"We regret that we anticipate that those who do attend will face extremely long waits to be seen while staff on duty do all they can to keep patients safe."