Welsh Labour cuts over 200 NHS beds in Wales during pandemic
The number of beds in the Welsh NHS fell by 224 during the first year of the pandemic it can be revealed.
Official statistics released last week show the Labour Government in Cardiff Bay oversaw a fall in NHS Wales beds from 10,564 to 10,340 in 2020/21, a decrease of 2.1% compared to 2019/20.
During the devolution era, when Labour has led every government, the number of beds has been cut by 30%, down from 14,723 in 1999/00, falling year-on-year ever since.
The average daily number of occupied beds in 2020/21 was 7,170, a fall of 1,863.1 (20.6%) compared to the previous year. The percentage occupancy of NHS beds in 2020/21 was 69.3%, well below the 80+% recorded every year for the last decade.
However, the statistical release stated that “the lower number of average daily occupied beds and percentage occupancy in 2020/21 reflects the lower levels of scheduled care activity as a consequence of the Covid-19 pandemic”, which has resulted in one fifth of the population being on an NHS waiting list.
The news comes days after it was announced NHS Wales recently suffered its worst-ever A&E waiting times, longest ever backlog – with 1-in-4 patients waiting over a year for treatment – and some of its slowest ever ambulance response times.
Commenting, Welsh Conservative and Shadow Health Minister Russell George MS said:
“Questions need to be asked as to why the Labour Government in Cardiff Bay think it has been appropriate to cut NHS beds against the advice of medical professionals and when demand continues to increase.
“There are serious questions over the judgment of Labour ministers. We need more beds, not fewer, if we are to recover from the pandemic and address the seismic backlog which had already doubled in the year before the virus hit.
“We know that a lack of beds is a huge hinderance to ensuring prompt and proper care for the patients who pay their taxes to fund the NHS, so cutting them makes no sense.
“Of course, we need more healthcare staff if there were more beds, but there are currently 3,000 NHS job vacancies that have accumulated, and successive Welsh Governments have had a quarter of century to shape the health service.
“This is also a timely reminder of why we need a Wales-specific Covid inquiry, so people can get the answers they need as to why the number of beds were decreasing year-on-year before the virus struck and why there are over 200 fewer available compared to when it did.”