Minister David Jones to discuss Ruthin bed cut plans

image captionMr Jones will discuss the bed cuts with the board's chief executive Mary Burrows

Plans to cut the number of beds in a hospital by almost half over the winter are to be discussed by a Welsh Office minister and health board chief.

David Jones will talk to Mary Burrows of Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board about reported cuts of 15 of 31 beds at Ruthin Hospital, Denbighshire.

The board revealed area-wide plans last week to cope with winter pressures.

The Clwyd West MP said the proposed cuts were "the cause of considerable concern in Ruthin".

The board issued its contingency plans for winter on 11 November saying it was expecting an increase in emergency admissions to its hospitals to coincide with the onset of colder weather.

The majority of patients would be older people with breathing difficulties and cardiac problems requiring emergency care, it said.

Mr Jones said the announcement of the proposed bed closures came without prior warning.

He said: "At first, it was indicated that only six beds were to be closed, but I now understand that as many as 15 beds have been earmarked for closure.

"I therefore intend to raise the issue directly with Mrs Burrows later this week."

A spokesman for Betsi Cadwaladr Health Board said the health board had looked at how hospital beds were being used at the moment, and whether this matched the areas of highest patient demand.

"For Denbighshire this work showed that some beds at Ruthin and Holywell hospitals are not being well used, while there is a need for extra beds in Denbigh and Prestatyn," he said.

"The health board is therefore looking at whether we should make short term changes to the distribution of beds and staff in the main hospitals and between neighbouring community hospitals to make sure that beds, and staff, are in the right place to cope with the demand for healthcare over the winter."

As part of its "comprehensive" plans to cope with increased emergency admissions during the winter period across its area, community health teams were being expanded so that they could look after more patients in their own home, the board said.

These teams would help prevent delays with patients ready to leave hospital and would be able to provide immediate care and support, reducing the need for some patients to be admitted onto a ward.

"We will also be opening new 'clinical decision units' at each of the A&E departments in north Wales," said the board's spokesman.

"These will each have 10 bays where patients can be looked after while they wait for test results and decisions about their care, including whether they need to be admitted onto a ward or whether they can be looked after in their own homes by one of the community teams."

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