Carwyn Jones backs Hywel Dda plan to halt winter surgery
First Minister Carwyn Jones has backed a health board's plan to postpone some non-urgent surgery at mid and west Wales hospitals this winter.
Hywel Dda Health Board said on Monday that certain orthopaedic schedules would be cancelled for a period of time while it dealt with increased pressure.
The hospitals affected are in Carmarthen, Haverfordwest, Llanelli and Aberystwyth.
Conservatives said the move would have a "massive impact" on patients.
The health board said it would review its plans "towards the end of the winter surge".
The health service union Unison has criticised the move and said that for patients it would result in longer delays and cause "further distress and possibly further complications to their condition".
Mr Jones faced close questioning from each of the three other party leaders at First Minister's Question Time on Tuesday at the Senedd.
End Quote Carwyn Jones First Minister
Those who've been scheduled to have orthopaedic surgery will receive it, all cancer, urgent trauma and day surgery work will continue”
Mr Jones told Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood: "Hywel Dda is doing exactly what her party has called for - that is planning for winter pressures.
"It is wholly wrong to say the health board is cancelling all non-urgent elective orthopaedic surgery.
"Those who've been scheduled to have orthopaedic surgery will receive it, all cancer, urgent trauma and day surgery work will continue."
But in response Ms Wood said Hywel Dda had a waiting time of 15 months for orthopaedic surgery and she urged the first minister "take responsibility" for NHS delays.
"Are you aware of the level of outrage amongst clinicians at Hywel Dda, who've been told that they're having a third of their work taken away from them this winter?" she said.
THE HEALTH BOARD'S PLANS INCLUDE
- Using theatres for those with the highest clinical need
- Reviewing and re-profiling patients on orthopaedic waiting lists
- Increasing day surgery cases
- Maximising alternative non-surgical treatment methods
- Undertaking work in outpatients to monitor patients on surgical lists
- Monitoring the position on a weekly basis and reviewing the position towards the end of the winter surge
- A non-emergency surgical shutdown for two weeks over Christmas
- Source: Hywel Dda Health Board
Mr Jones told Welsh Liberal Democrat leader Kirsty Williams he was informed about the health board's plans the day before it announced them.
Ms Williams replied: "It seems that you're not very clear about the LHBs plans for this winter, your government isn't very clear about the LHBs plans for this winter and the public and the clinicians, it seems, are not very clear either."
Welsh Conservative leader Andrew RT Davies said it showed "the government is detached from the reality of what many patients and clinicians are experiencing within the Welsh NHS".
Mr Davies questioned whether Welsh ministers were "in the loop" as operations that would have otherwise been scheduled were now being cancelled, decisions that would have a "massive impact on the patient experience and also the ability of that health board to retain its key clinicians".
He accused the first minister of being "flippant" in the face of such serious proposals and warned of the dangers of a "crisis situation" developing over the next five months.
Mr Jones said Mr Davies was "either setting out to be disingenuous" or wasn't listening to his replies and insisted that what the Conservative leader was suggesting would actually cause a crisis situation.
Meanwhile other health boards in Wales have outlined their strategies for coping with winter pressures to BBC Wales.
Three boards - Cardiff and Vale, Abertawe Bro Morgannwg and Aneurin Bevan - said they would open extra beds, with Aneurin Bevan also promising extra staff.
The Cwm Taf and Betsi Cadwaladr boards said they would work with the ambulance service and local councils to minimise the impact on hospitals.
Betsi Cadwaladr officials added that the three main hospitals serving north Wales would concentrate on emergencies while non-urgent surgery would be handled by other units.