BMA Cymru Wales has written to the Welsh Health Minister urging a radical shake-up of the Health and Care system in Wales before lives are lost.
The Association has released a copy of the letter, which was sent two weeks ago, and is demanding an urgent intervention from the Health Minister following a rapid deterioration of the service in recent weeks.
Dr Phil White, Chair of the BMA’s Welsh GP Committee said:
“Within the last six weeks the situation has escalated to a point where the Welsh Ambulance Service is having to refuse to attend emergency requests from the public and clinicians alike.
“It is astonishing that we’ve reached this point. After repeatedly raising concerns over the last few years that the situation was worsening, we are sadly seeing our fears borne out. If action is not taken immediately to resolve this situation then patients will die, there’s no doubt about it.”
Dr White said that a growing number of GPs across Wales are reporting that patients who present with life-threatening emergencies in surgeries are requiring alternative urgent transport to hospital in taxis or via lifts from family or friends. GPs themselves are driving urgent cases to hospitals or providing treatment in places that aren’t equipped to provide emergency care due to the inability of the ambulance service to cope.
He said: “The situation is the worst it’s ever been, but the reality is that management of patient flow in Wales has not been fit for purpose for years, and our warnings have fallen on deaf ears.”
The letter, co-signed by BMA Cymru Wales Committee Chairs and Local Medical Committee Chairs, notes the problems are deep-rooted and include ‘the inability to manage the flow of patients through the whole Health and Care system.’
It goes on: ‘the situation is complex and multifaceted, with problems and solutions relating to workforce, demand management, ambulance offloading, flow and discharge back into the community.’
Dr Phil Banfield, Chair of the BMA’s Welsh Consultant Committee said:
“We know a major contributor to the pressure which exists currently within hospital emergency departments is the delay in hospital admissions. A clear driver of such a delay is the fact that bed capacity within the NHS in Wales has reduced dramatically over the last decade – against the advice of those working on the frontline.
“Having significantly fewer hospital beds is undoubtedly contributing to patients becoming backed up within emergency departments where they may be waiting for admission to other hospital wards.
“Then we have the patients who are sitting in hospital beds waiting to be discharged but have no onwards care in place. For those patients, having longer stays in hospital can increase their risk of infection and cause stress which can affect a patient’s health after they’ve been discharged and increase their chances of readmission to hospital.
“It is putting an intolerable strain on staff and causing a great deal of distress and confusion to patients.”
“This crisis has exposed a fundamental lack of joined up thinking across the Welsh NHS and social care and there is an urgent need for a collaborative approach.
“The system needs a radical shake-up to create a seamless service between the NHS, social care and community services working in partnership to meet needs of patients effectively, as well as significant investment in the system.
“Doctors are looking to the Health Minister for leadership and resolution. Patients have suffered and staff are at breaking point. The Health Minister cannot wait any longer – bring together health and social care before lives are lost.”