A&E 'facing winter crisis' - union chief
Will A&E departments reach “breaking point” this winter? Possibly, a nursing union leader has warned. RICHARD YOULE reports
A NURSING union leader fears serious trouble is brewing for Wales's emergency depart- ments this winter.
Tina Donnelly said she believed patients could witness a "breaking point" at a time in the year when demand for services increased.
Ms Donnelly, director of RCN Wales (Royal College of Nursing), has called on the Welsh Government to "pump prime" community healthcare services to ease the pressure on hospitals, which are dealing with more elderly, chronically ill patients.
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She feared waiting lists will lengthen with hospitals understandably finding it hard to discharge these patients.
Health boards in Wales have seen greater unscheduled demand than normal this spring and summer. All the boards are expected to cut their spending this year but have, to date, been unable to do so.
It is a far from ideal situation.
Ms Donnelly said: "There is insufficient capacity within the community to discharge patients out of hospital, and as a consequence of that there is also insufficient care in the community (or) opportunities for people who need to see doctors, so they turn up at emergency care departments.
"Hospitals then have to cope with their duty of care and they have to see individuals who do need to be seen."
Referring to increased winter pressures, she added: "If that demand is not resourced then there will have to be changes again later in the year if the health boards are to come in on budget."
The Post reported yesterday that Abertawe Bro Morgannwg University Health Board, which covers Swansea, Neath Port Talbot and Bridgend, had overspent by nearly £7.5million by the end of July but needed to save £45million this year to break even. It has introduced cost-cutting measures identified by staff and last month slashed its use of expensive agency staff by some 90 per cent.
"We need a certain amount of staffing flexibility to cover sickness or other absence, but this is being carefully managed," said an ABM spokeswoman.
Hywel Dda in Mid and West Wales has a £4m deficit and £36m in savings to find.
This month two key documents to help shape the future of health services — one for the ABM region and the other for South Wales — will be published.
The Welsh Government said health boards must have appropriate staffing levels in place to meet "fluctuating demand". It has launched a new campaign to better educate people about the healthcare services available to them.
The Post asked what it could do to square the rising demand vs budget compliance predicament, but it did not respond at the time of going to press.