Wales is still likely to have to have some field hospitals operational through next winter in order to manage potential spikes in coronavirus.
At the start of the pandemic, hospitals all over Wales were set up by the Welsh Government after seeing the health service of Italy being overwhelmed.
During the Health, Social Care and Sport Committee in the Senedd health minister Vaughan Gething and Welsh NHS chief executive Andrew Goodall were quizzed on how these hospitals had performed as well as what the plans were for them in the future.
According to Mr Goodall the field hospitals in Wales never exceed 10% of their maximum capacity.
“The maximum number of patients we have had across Wales in our field hospitals has been around 227,” he told the committee.
“The total field hospital capacity was 2700.
“People may be saying that is a dreadful thing because we should have been using them.
“They were always there for extraordinary and exceptional use. The fact that they have had that extra flexibility in the system, which is the size of a small district general hospital I think has helped us in our resilience.
“If we needed to go further they were available if the system had become overwhelmed to a very significant degree.”
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According to Mr Goodall the many of the hospitals were put to other uses.
He said: “They have come into play for different reasons as well. We have sometimes reused them as testing centres [and] recently some of the field hospitals across Wales have been able to be used as mass vaccination centres.”
At the peak Wales had 19 field hospitals but that has been reduced down to 10. This is a judgement made by local health boards.
It seems that there will remain some still operational within Wales throughout next winter.
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Health minister Vaughan Gething said: “Another wave in the autumn and winter of this year is entirely possible. That has been in several SAGE papers and something that we need to plan for. Whoever is in government after the election in May will have to plan for that.”
The was seconded by Mr Goodall who said: “Looking ahead as we look at the data modelling and the background, we assess the impact of vaccination [there is] an expectation that coronavirus will still be something to be lived with during the winter months and we may want to call out [field hospitals] again in the NHS as a level of extra capacity we may need as a contingency in the system to be used in winter. But it wouldn’t be to the level we saw last April for example.”