A CRITICAL incident has been declared in Wales as hospitals struggle to deal with unprecedented demand.
It comes as a number of hospitals across the country appealed to the public not to attend A&Es unless their illness or injury is life-threatening.
Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board, which covers counties in North Wales, said it had been inundated with people needing emergency care, leading to a shortage of beds and long waiting times.
The board has cancelled all planned procedures that were due to take place today.
However, those deemed the most urgent have still gone ahead, with procedures scheduled for tomorrow also still set to take place.
Hospitals across the border in Gloucestershire have also put out a similar appeal saying staff are under “unprecedented pressure”.
The health board in Wales today said that it’s struggling to cope ‘with the unprecedented increased demand across the health and social care system’.
A statement read: “There is a high number of patients coming to our hospitals at the moment with flu, Covid and other respiratory viruses, as well as an increase in those patients who have sustained serious injuries or patients who are not well and need care.
“This, in addition to a lack of beds in our hospitals, and a significant lack in our staffing numbers, leads to an extremely long wait for patients to be seen – especially the emergency departments of our hospitals. Other health boards and trusts in England face similar pressures.
“This is an extremely challenging time for colleagues across the health service and we are extremely grateful for the ongoing efforts that are being made in difficult circumstances.”
Among the hospitals affected are Glan Cwlyd, Ysbyty Gwynedd and Wrexham Maelor.
Those who may need treatment are instead being urged to use NHS 111.
The trust said it is working with local authorities to enable people to be discharged as soon as they are ready.
The critical incident in Wales comes after it was revealed that patients are waiting up to four days in A&E instead of the target four hours because of the NHS crisis.
Top doctors are calling for “urgent action” and a Covid-style major incident as the service collapses under surging demand and staff shortages.
They say dozens of patients are dying every day because of delays.
Ambulance and emergency department wait times have grown to their longest ever in recent months.
Around 40,000 people per month now spend over 12 hours in A&E.
Ian Higginson, of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, called the situation “appalling”.
And today, parents have also been warned to be on the lookout for signs of winter illnesses as children head back to school after the Christmas break.
Medics today warned that these levels are only going to continue to increase, along with high numbers of scarlet fever, which is caused by Group A streptococcus, also being reported.
Covid cases have also climbed, with the number of hospitalisations from the bug up.
In the last week, there were 3,746 patients a day in hospital with the flu, figures show.
There have also been at least 30 child deaths from invasive Strep A since September.
The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) said infections remain rare and the majority of cases continue to be in the over-45s.
It said the data shows an “out-of-season increase” in Strep A and scarlet fever infections and a higher number of cases of both diseases than seen in a typical year.
There have been 33,836 notifications of scarlet fever this season, compared to 4,672 at the same point in 2017 to 2018.
Prof Susan Hopkins, Chief medical Adviser at the UKHSA today said that it’s important to minimise the spread of infection in schools and in other education settings.
She said that if your child is unwell and has a fever, they should stay home from school or nursery until they feel better and the fever has resolved.