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Wednesday, September 09, 2009

More from North Wales

My limited tour of health facilities in North Wales continued today with a visit to the North Wales Cancer Centre, which was very impressive. I had an interesting discussion about some of the more controversial cancer drugs that have not been approved by NICE and also looked at some of the preparation work that needs to be put in before undertaking radiotherapy to the head and neck.

The one constant in all of these visits has been the utter and total dedication of the staff who deliver health services at the front line, however I have also heard wherever I have gone that the service is underfunded and that staff are being stretched to the limit.

In this instance there are clear problems due to the inability to recruit sufficient junior doctors meaning that more senior doctors have to cover, often travelling halfway across North Wales to do so. There was also a shortage of nurses on the wards and as I was warned a very high bed occupancy rate that is causing problems right across the service.

In the afternoon I was taken around the operating theatres in Glan Clwyd Hospital, fully gowned up. I saw the new urology theatre that is to open soon and even observed some operations from within the theatre including key hole surgery on an enlarged bowel.

There is some scepticism about the Assembly Government's intentions towards this hospital, which had huge amounts of asbestos incorporated as part of its construction and in many people's view needs to be replaced. Indeed the Health Minister even came to the hospital and announced that a replacement will be built on the same site but since then I have been told that the scheme has been quietly dropped. Something to ask about when I get back I think.

The other issue around Glan Clwyd is the lack of any High Dependency beds, which means that operations often have to be cancelled at the last minute. Although there are Intensive Care beds these are often filled up by patients who could manage with a less intensive level of care. In some cases patients have turned up on the day only to be told that there are no beds available for post-operative care and sent home. That is very distressing especially when the operation is on a cancerous tumour.

Although there are discussions about putting in a business case for these High Dependency beds these talks appear to be at an early stage and given that Glan Clwyd is a leading centre for some types of surgery that can be a problem for patients and for the hospital itself.
The way you wrote this as "North Wales" indicates Peter you are English to the bone. You are now part of a Wales (joking Siop Siarad) Assembly - it should never be "North Wales" if you were part of our culture - it should simply be as we say in Welsh "The North"!
I was referring to the administrative unit of the NHS that covers North Wales - the Betsi Cadwaladr University LHB rather than a geographical region.
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