PLANS to end 999 emergency admissions and GP referrals to Neath Port Talbot Hospital have been brought forward to midnight on Tuesday (August 21).
The move is in response to potential difficulties which the bank holiday weekend could bring, and is intended to ensure a smooth transition to the full service change by September 3.
Abertawe Bro Morgannwg University Health Board’s chief operating officer Alex Howells said: “The days – up to a fortnight – following a bank holiday can be very busy, with high demands on our services.
“Our senior doctors and nurses are advising us that it would be preferable to avoid adding to this pressure with the urgent service change going on at the same time.
“They have advised that we cease 999 medical admissions and GP referrals before Bank Holiday Monday on August 27.
“The earliest we will be in a position to do this is next week, so we have agreed these admissions to Neath Port Talbot Hospital should cease from midnight on August 21, ahead of the bank holiday weekend.
“This will allow us to make the biggest changes in advance, leading up to completion of the service change on September 3. We believe this will support the transition and help reduce the risk of delays.”
The expanded clinical decision unit at Morriston Hospital will be available from August 22, as will 22 beds at Ward 6 in Singleton Hospital and 10 beds in Ward 20 at the Princess of Wales Hospital in Bridgend.
These beds, which are moving from Neath Port Talbot Hospital with nursing staff, will accommodate Neath Port Talbot acute medical patients affected by the urgent service change. This is expected to affect about 26 patients a day, with 80 per cent going to hospitals in Swansea and the remainder to the Princess of Wales Hospital in Bridgend, with 12 ambulance transfers back to Neath Port Talbot.
In addition, extra temporary beds will be available on these hospital sites for a few weeks as the service change settles in.
Two wards are also being kept at Neath Port Talbot Hospital for patients to move to once their initial acute care in the other hospitals is completed. This is to keep patients’ treatment as local as possible and help their families visit.
A team of nurses whose job it is to identify Neath Port Talbot patients who are well enough to transfer to Neath Port Talbot Hospital will visit wards at Morriston, Singleton and the Princess of Wales hospitals daily. They will then make the arrangements to move suitable patients to Neath Port Talbot Hospital.
Key to this is being able to transfer patients between hospital sites quickly and safely, and the health board and the Welsh Ambulance Service have now agreed a bespoke transport system.
More ambulances are being made available specifically for discharges and transfers. In addition, a new Advanced Paramedic Practitioner Service is being set up at Neath Port Talbot Hospital.
Deployment of these paramedics, who have additional diagnostic and treatment skills, will allow them to deal directly with a high proportion of patients without them needing to go to hospital. Where advanced paramedic practitioners have been used elsewhere in the NHS, the number of patients going to hospital has halved.
The additional ambulance transport will be place in time for the urgent service change at Neath Port Talbot Hospital, with the Advanced Paramedic Practitioner team arriving shortly afterwards once the recruitment process is complete.