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I am pleased to update Members on health board plans to retain over 5000 additional beds for the rest of 2020/2021.

The winter period is always challenging for our health and social care system. However, COVID-19 has added a further dimension to the usual challenges presented by influenza, adverse weather and exacerbations of chronic respiratory conditions often resulting in increased emergency admissions.

Last week, I published our Winter Protection Plan, setting out how we will work together with the system to deliver safe and resilient services this winter.

In the spring, 19 field hospitals were established around Wales in a matter of weeks to provide thousands of additional beds for a significant predicted increase in hospital admissions for patients suffering from the virus. Thousands of beds were also identified across existing NHS and independent hospital sites in the event of a reasonable worst case scenario. In total provision was made for around 10,000 additional beds, a testament to the capability of NHS, Local Authority, independent sector, private sector and military partners who worked round the clock to deliver for the people of Wales.

Thankfully, the great majority of the additional beds were not needed at that time. This is primarily because of the support from the public in complying with lockdown restrictions; maintaining good hygiene and social distancing; and changes in the way services were delivered and accessed by the public. I would like to thank everyone in Wales for playing your part.

As we approach this winter, and with the recent rise in COVID-19 cases, it is highly likely health and social care services will require additional capacity to manage increasing demand for services. We must ensure we retain access to sufficient additional bed capacity to manage any increase in admissions of patients with COVID-19.

We are now more than 6 months into the COVID-19 pandemic. We learn more about the virus on a daily basis, and how best to secure positive outcomes for Wales. Based on data modelling and ongoing learning from the first peak, health boards were asked to retain 5000 beds across Wales to enable safe management of a potential realistic worst case scenario caused by a spike in emergency admissions to hospital beds.

Health boards will achieve this goal by retaining ten field hospitals across four health boards in Wales, capable of providing approximately 2600 additional beds. This will be supplemented by an additional 2500 beds available in a combination of existing NHS hospital facilities; through the opening of one new NHS hospital facility; and a new modular building on the site of an existing hospital.

In practice, at a health board level this means:

  • Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board has agreed to retain Venue Cymru in Llandudno; Ysbyty Enfys Deeside at the Deeside Leisure Centre; and the Brailsford Centre at Bangor University. A number of additional beds will also be made available in existing NHS hospital sites to secure an overall total of 1,198 additional beds.
  • Cwm Taf Morgannwg University Health Board will retain the field hospital at the former Harman Becker unit at the Bridgend Industrial Estate alongside additional capacity across existing NHS hospital sites with a total additional capacity of 718 beds.
  • Due to its dispersed local population, Hywel Dda University Health Board will retain a range of smaller field hospitals sites across the region. This will include ‘y Barn’ at Parc y Scarlets, the Selwyn Samuel Centre in Llanelli, Bluestone in Pembrokeshire and Aberystwyth and Cardigan Leisure Centres. Alongside additional bed capacity in existing NHS hospital sites, the Health Board will retain additional capacity of 613 beds.
  • Earlier in the year, Swansea Bay University Health Board undertook work to transform the Bay Studios in Swansea. This site will be retained and provide capacity of up to 818 beds if required.
  • Aneurin Bevan University Health Board will open the Grange University Hospital four months early in November and, alongside additional bed capacity across existing NHS sites, will provide around 942 extra beds.
  • Cardiff and Vale University Health Board will build a new modular facility, on the University Hospital of Wales site in Cardiff alongside additional bed capacity in existing NHS sites to provide around 800 additional beds.
  • Powys teaching Health Board has identified additional capacity within its existing hospital sites and has agreement with neighbouring health boards and trusts for access to additional beds for its residents, as necessary. This will provide 210 extra beds.

Crucially, this additional capacity is intended to enable health boards to continue to undertake planned surgical procedures and manage urgent and emergency care demand during the historically challenging winter period; in addition to the management of any potential increases in numbers of patients admitted to a hospital bed caused by COVID-19.

I would like to thank Local Authority, independent sector, private sector and NHS partners for their ongoing support in enabling additional capacity to be established and retained at scale for the remainder of 2020/2021.

We will continue to monitor the situation and a further review will be undertaken following the submission of health board plans later in the year to consider any requirement for further capacity plans in 2021/22.