The rise in Covid-19 cases across Carmarthenshire, Pembrokeshire and Ceredigion is impacting hospital services, with ambulances waiting outside A&Es and not enough beds for patients.

The rise in cases has led Hywel Dda University Health Board chief, Maria Battle, to make an urgent appeal to the public to do what they can to help reduce the spread of the virus.

Ms Battle said: “We have seen the busiest tourist season ever in west Wales. In many ways we have welcomed this and in other ways it has brought its own challenges and increasing demand on our communities and public services.

“Compared to the last 18 months, we may be lulled into thinking we are back to normal. But whilst hopefully the worst impact of Covid-19 is over, we are not out of the woods just yet.

Ms Battle said the health board has seen "a higher level of sickness absence than usual", which has reduced how many people can be cared for compared to pre-Covid.

"We are doing everything we can to support all our staff and recruit to vacant posts," she added.

As a result of the pandemic a staggering 30,000 patients are waiting for planned surgery.

To help accelerate surgery the health board said it is looking into building additional, temporary theatres at Prince Philip Hospital, in Llanelli, while also working with Swansea Bay Health Board and staff at Amman Valley Hospital, Glanaman, to increase cataract operations.

Ms Battle has addressed the shortage of staff in social care services across local authorities in west Wales.

"This can lead to delays in discharging patients and the associated risks of staying in hospital for too long," she said.

"We are seeing ambulances waiting outside of A&Es as there are not enough beds available for patients who need to be admitted and we do not want people in our communities in emergency situations to be waiting too long for an ambulance.

“We are working closely with our local authority partners to do all we can together to increase the availability of social care. This includes supporting training to our partner social and domiciliary care teams.

“Your urgent and emergency care services have remained open throughout the pandemic and they are still here for you when you need them. However, we are not out of this pandemic. One of the consequences of this is that we are having to bring back temporary measures, including postponing some surgery in the short term, to ensure we can safely care for patients.

“At the moment, in health and social care, we have almost the perfect storm. But we have got through many storms together during the life of this pandemic and with your support we will get through this one again.”

The health board has outlined ways that could help reduce NHS pressures:

• For urgent and emergency care only, call 999

• If you have a non-urgent need, please seek alternatives to A&E such as visiting the 111 symptom checker visiting your local community pharmacy or calling your doctor’s surgery

• Be community spirited - If you have a relative waiting to be discharged from hospital, please support them in their journey home and help settle them once they arrive.

• Protect the NHS – and Keep Wales Safe by following the latest government guidance

• Anyone with Covid-19 symptoms, including cold and flu-like symptoms, must self-isolate and book a test

• Get your vaccine

• Keep safe by minimising your social contacts