THERE are signs that hospital admissions due to coronavirus in Wales are stabilising, the head of the NHS in Wales said today.

But Dr Andrew Goodall said that the impact of the virus on the service remains such that this is not sufficient to overcome current pressures, with the number of people in hospital with coronavirus and related symptoms - 1, 654 - still eight per cent higher than this time last week.

Of those patients, 62 are in critical care, a lower number than at this time last week. But the normal critical care capacity in Wales, of 152 beds, has been exceeded, with 157 patients overall currently requiring such care.

There are four levels of escalation in Wales to gauge how busy hospitals are, and NHS Wales chief executive Dr Goodall said that today, 18 hospitals are reporting being at levels three or four, the highest two levels.

"The NHS continues to balance winter and emergency pressures with the demands of caring for people seriously ill with coronavirus," he said.

Describing the impact of coronavirus in terms of patients' length of stay in hospital, he said almost half of those admitted with the virus "will be there for more than a week".

And around a quarter will be in hospital for at least three weeks, with some needing even more time to recover sufficiently to be able to go home.

"This has a knock-on effect on available bed capacity,” said Dr Goodall.


“The NHS remains open for essential and emergency services, and also for routine care.

“But with high levels of coronavirus infection in our communities, and high levels of people with coronavirus in hospitals, services will find it increasingly difficult to operate normally."

Speaking at today's Welsh Government coronavirus briefing, Dr Goodall also gave a "snapshot" of life for staff at the frontline, caring for coronavirus patients.

They must work in PPE for a full shift, and that is "hot and difficult", and that means there is an increasing need for breaks so they can take off the equipment for a while.

Coronavirus and non-coronavirus patients need to be kept separate, and that increases the complexity of the system.

There is also a higher level of staff sickness, with people becoming ill due to coronavirus, and having to self isolate because of that, and because they may have been in contact with others who have tested positive.

One example of a service disrupted by coronavirus is outpatients, where around three million people ayear - the equivalent of the population of Wales - would normally be seen.

But clinics have been seeing around two-thirds fewer people, in large part due to the need to ensure social distancing requirements can be met.

"To complete the cleaning regimes needed between each appointment, these are scheduled for 30 minutes, instead of 15 minutes, to manage the infection risk," said Dr Goodall.

“But there are some areas, like ENT (ear, nose and throat) and maxillo-facial, where the risk is higher, and an extended wait between appointments is needed."

More “virtual” consultations are being done, but waiting lists are nevertheless increasing.

“Unfortunately, we will see further increases to these waiting times as we continue to respond to coronavirus during this public health emergency," he said.

"We are doing everything we can to increase routine activity, but it is not possible to return all services to normal, particularly with high numbers of coraanvirus cases in the community."