Health watchdog "surprised and disappointed" at North Wales surgery cancellations


Mike Williams

A NORTH Wales health watchdog has said more warning should have been given after routine surgery was postponed across the region.

The North Wales Health Council was "surprised and disappointed" at Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board's announcement yesterday(Tuesday) that all routine surgery in Ysbyty Gwynedd, Glan Clwyd and Wrexham Maelor planned for this week are postponed.

The health board said the decision was made due to "significant pressure" on emergnecy staff.

Geoff Ryall-Harvey, Chief Officer for the North Wales Community Health Council, said: "I am very surprised and disappointed to learn of this decision, in particular as the CHC has had no prior warning of this measure.

"I have asked the health board for more information behind these decisions and about the demands on emergency medical services across North Wales."

Urgent operations including those for cancer will still go ahead, as well as eye and orthopeadic surgery at Abergele hospital.

The health board said a rise in the number of patients with complex multiple health problems, the elderly and frail admitted to hospital has raised the risk of delays in emergency care.

Mr Ryall-Harvey added: "It is worrying that none of the usual causes for high levels of emergency admissions to hospitals, such as icy weather, causing trips and falls; flu and other respiratory infections, are an issue here.

"Delays in planned operations could well result in those conditions becoming emergencies and it is my concern that there will be a real cost in terms of pain, suffering and worry for patients whose operations are delayed."

The health board said the situation is being reviewed on a daily basis.

Matt Makin, Medical Director and Director of Clinical Services at the health board, said: “This is not a decision that we have taken lightly.

“However, we have to make sure that we are able to provide safe services for people who need emergency care, and at the moment our hospitals are facing very severe pressures."

Mr Makin said patients will be re-booked for appointments as soon as possible.

Mabon ap Gwynfor, spokesman for the North Wales Health Alliance, said: "The North Wales Health Alliance was formed last year in part to oppose the closure of community hospitals across the North.

“Since then we’ve had a new health minister, a new chief executive and a new chairman of Betsi Cadwaladr Health Board.

"But we’re still facing the same problems because none of them have so far tackled the underlying problems within the health service in the North.”

Aled Roberts, Assembly Member for North Wales, said: “This is yet further evidence that Betsi Cadwaladr health board is under an immense amount of pressure and that it is really struggling." 

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