Covid: Lack of hospital beds makes spread ‘inevitable’

A lack of beds in Welsh hospitals meant it was “inevitable” Covid patients would come into contact with others, a doctor has said.

In a video diary for BBC Wales, Dr Nicky Leopold said: “Seeing patients in bed at the time of admission is becoming a rarity.”

Some patients, including those with Covid, have had to spend nights on chairs in A&E due to a lack of beds.

The Welsh government said it aimed to deliver 12,000 more staff by 2024-25.

Health Minister Eluned Morgan and the chief executive of the Welsh NHS are due to give evidence to the Senedd’s health committee on winter pressures on Thursday.

“We know how hard our health and social care staff have been working throughout the last couple of years and we want to thank them for everything they do.”


Dr Nicky Leopold


Dr Leopold, a consultant geriatrician, who is a member of the BMA union in Wales, said there had been recent improvements since the number of NHS staff testing positive for Covid fell, but the flow of patients through hospital was still a problem.

‘Patients in dire need’

She said: “So many patients are stranded in hospital and that’s very difficult and frustrating. There just aren’t the staff in the community to support the increased level of need.”

Outpatient appointments had also been affected by shortages, she added. A lot of patients were in “dire need” and staff were “desperately” trying to keep clinics running.

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Dr Steve Kelly, a respiratory consultant, described “really difficult working conditions” with so many beds full of patients who had tested positive for Covid.

He said fewer patients needed as much respiratory support as before but staff were “just overwhelmed with patient numbers”.

“Lots of people are effectively trapped because we can’t sort out care packages or help because they remain Covid-positive, so they need to stay with us until they’re Covid-free,” he said.

“It just slows down the process and makes our beds more full and makes the admissions more difficult and means people coming in spend longer in the emergency department than we would like.”


Dr Steve Kelly and another member of staff


Meanwhile, Dr Phil Banfield, the chairman of the BMA Cymru Wales consultants committee, said: “The impact of the pandemic on the NHS is the tip of the iceberg.

“This predicament is one that was years in the making, the pandemic has just exacerbated the existing issues in the system.

“Health services will not be able to ensure patient safety or protect the fragile recovery of elective services without a well-supported, healthy and safe workforce.

“It’s imperative the Welsh government and NHS employers take urgent action to expand the workforce and retain the staff we have.”

The Welsh government said: “Winter pressures, coupled with the pandemic and the need to support the vaccine programme continue to place further strain on services and staff.

“We are committed to increasing capacity through the recruitment of a range of professions including investing record amounts of more than £260m in training places to deliver an additional 12,000 clinical staff by 2024-25.

“We know how hard our health and social care staff have been working throughout the last couple of years and we want to thank them for everything they do.”

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