A report into critical care in the Welsh NHS, from June, published today by the health minister states that:
- Wales has the lowest critical care capacity in Europe
- There is an immediate need for an additional 73 beds in Wales
- The number of critical care beds in Wales has declined since 1999
- Most Welsh critical care units routinely run at above the recommended 75 per cent bed occupancy rate
- Demand for critical care is expected to rise by five per cent per year on average, although the demography of Wales means this might be higher for an ageing population with high rates of chronic illness.
The annual report called 'An assessment of unmet need for critical care in Wales' by the All-Wales Implementation Group for the Delivery Plan for the Critically Ill, recommends that in Wales "a need for an additional 73 beds in Wales immediately, rising to a total of 295 additional beds in ten years time to accommodate the expected increase in need for critical care."
In the Health Ministers response he avoided to committing to open any more new beds in Welsh hospitals.
Commenting, Kirsty Williams, leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats, said:
"It is incredibly sad that after fifteen years of Labour running the health service in Wales we have the lowest number of critical care beds per person in Europe. In 1999 the then health minister was warned there was a problem with capacity and since then we have gone backwards.
"I am deeply concerned with the minister's response to the report which gives no commitment to actually increase the capacity with new beds, only to use the existing beds better. Of course we should use the existing beds better, but that will not solve the fundamental problem.
"With demand for critical care set to rise year on year, Labour need to stop burying their heads in the sand and deal with an issue that has existed in the Welsh NHS for over a decade."
"Once again we are seeing how the Welsh NHS is being left behind the rest of the UK due to the failings of the Welsh Labour Government".