IN-PATIENT operations are set to be cancelled for a third consecutive day at hospitals across the Hywel Dda region.

Speaking to BBC radio this morning (Wednesday, January 8), deputy medical director Sion James said operations are likely to be called off again today at Carmarthen’s Glangwili hospital, Withybush at Haverfordwest, Aberystwyth’s Bronglais Hospital and Llanelli’s Prince Philip Hospital.

Mr James said: "It looks likely there will be more postponements. We are still holding outpatient appointments. We are still doing emergency procedures and some on the day but more procedures will be postponed after today.

"We'd like to take this opportunity to apologise to patients that have been affected. This was the only option left for us. Patient safety is the most important thing for us.

"There's been a number of challenges across the health board. We've had the norovirus breakout, the flu breakout and it means there's more people in our hospitals. Our hospitals are full."

Patient watchdog Hywel Dda Community Health Council (CHC) said it was concerned and disappointed at the action.

CHC chairperson Mansell Bennett said: “This will be bad news for many and possibly distressing news for some. Patients and their families will have been waiting months for their operations and now their lives go on hold.

"We know patient safety is vital and we know that the NHS and its staff are doing their best in the face of extreme pressures this winter, but the Health Board must do all it can to ease this situation”.

The CHC feels that there are short and long term steps to take, Mr Bennett added: “We’ll be speaking with the Health Board to understand exactly how this problem has developed but in the short term, we expect patients who have been affected to be communicated with effectively and sensitively.

"In the longer term we must have a system which is well staffed and splits urgent and planned care so that one cannot impact the other, because as we’ve seen, those impacts hit patients hard”.

A statement by the health board earlier this week asked the public not to contact the appointments or outpatients team unless absolutely necessary and said there may be long waits for GP appointments, and at A&E or MIU.

The public has been urged to use other services, like community pharmacies, where possible.

The health board has also asked people not to attend an emergency department or GP practice if they have symptoms of infectious illness such as diarrhoea, vomiting, fever or symptoms of flu.

However, the vulnerable - very young, frail elderly, living with long term or chronic conditions – or those with worsening symptoms should seek medical advice.