Following an extensive period of planning and preparation, step-down patients in south west Wales will be among the first to be admitted to new field hospitals, Hywel Dda University Health Board has announced.
The move by the health boards comes as part of our ongoing response to the Covid-19 pandemic. The strategy involves around 30 beds being opened at both the Ysbyty Enfys Selwyn Samuel in Llanelli and at Ysbyty Enfys Carreg Las in Pembrokeshire for non-Covid patients from mid-November, which will allow the health board to better manage patient capacity and flow in our acute hospital sites.
The patients – who will be cared for by an experienced multiprofessional team including nurses, therapists and patient liaison officers - have been assessed as no longer needing medical input, but still require some care before being discharged home or to a community care facility.
Field hospitals have been established in each of the three counties of Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion and Pembrokeshire as a precautionary measure to enable the NHS to respond to the current COVID pandemic. Over the summer a small number of patients were admitted to the facility in Carmarthen as part of a pilot of the service, which has helped to inform how we use these sites safely and appropriately.
*Please note – none of these hospitals have emergency departments or any other walk-in service and should not be accessed by members of our community. Visiting is restricted as per all other hospitals but health care staff can help connect patients and their families, carers and friends.
Dr Meinir Jones, clinical lead for the field hospitals and transformation, explained: “From the outset we have committed to using these field hospitals flexibly based on the demand experienced as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic and this activity together with our normal unscheduled care activity has reached the level at which we agreed we would need additional capacity from the field hospitals.
“This level was set according to several considerations including the need to have the capacity to admit COVID patients to the main acute hospitals in line with demand across the system, being able to have the right number of patients to adhere to current infection prevention measures and new clinical guidelines, and to safely reinstate some other urgent and critical planned procedures for our patients.”
Staffing for the facilities has been made possible thanks to the flexibility of current health care staff in Hywel Dda, some of whom are temporarily working in different roles or increased hours; as well previous members of staff returning to work and additional recruitment.
Dr Jones added: “Opening up these two hospitals will release some capacity in our acute sites and support the reinstating of other urgent planned procedures. We are acutely aware of the impact postponements have had on patients and their quality of life.”
All of our field hospitals are available to respond quickly and flexibly should there be a need. Acute hospitals, due to their intensive care capacity, access to theatres and supplies such as oxygen, and the support network around the hospital, are best placed to deal with patients who need more acute medical intervention and so will continue to be the primary sites for acutely unwell patients (both COVID and non-COVID).
Andrew Carruthers, Director of Operations at Hywel Dda UHB said: “Central to our development of the field hospitals has been the flexibility they could allow us to be able to manage capacity and overall demand throughout this pandemic.
“COVID unfortunately is not going to simply go away, and so we need to base our plans not just on how we manage COVID patients, but also how we can restart other services and provide continuity of care across the system.
“Both our planning and delivery is and will continue to be based on national and local clinical advice and with the ultimate objective of keeping our population as safe as possible when they need to access our services for care.”