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Last Updated: Wednesday, 16 February, 2005, 13:57 GMT
Minister tours 'pressured' A&Es
Ambulances queuing up at the Royal Gwent Hospital, Newport
Ambulances queued at many Welsh emergency units last week
Welsh Health Minister Brian Gibbons has been touring hospital emergency units to see the pressures they are facing.

It follows recent incidents which have seen ambulances queuing at hospitals and some health chiefs warning the system is at breaking point.

Dr Gibbons has visited Llantrisant's Royal Glamorgan Hospital, Prince Charles in Merthyr Tydfil and Nevill Hall in Abergavenny.

He said that staff were not "pulling any punches" when talking to him.

His tour finished with trips to Newport's Royal Gwent and the University Hospital of Wales, Cardiff.

As far as I am concerned, I think people are being frank and honest
Dr Gibbons

In the last month, all major hospitals in Wales, except Wrexham Maelor, have been under serious pressure.

Dr Gibbons said staff had been talking to him about how their workloads had been increasing recently.

"They have tried to give some ideas why they think that is, and also some ideas as to what can be done to improve the situation," he said.

"I think there is a certain frustration that what they think could be done to improve the situation doesn't seem to happening as quickly as they would like.

"I don't think anybody asked so far has pulled any punches - as far as I am concerned, I think people are being frank and honest."

On 7 February, up to 10 ambulances queued up outside the Royal Gwent, while Nevill Hall was shut to all but critically-ill patients.

Dr Brian Gibbons, health minister
Brian Gibbons spoke to doctors and nurses on his tour

Regional ambulance officer George Murphy said that all the acute hospitals in the south-east region had been on red alert status, with the Royal Gwent worst hit.

Non-critical patients were moved to nearby St Woolos Hospital and to Caerphilly District Miners' Hospital to ease the pressure on beds.

The Royal College of Nursing called for action to avoid a repeat of the problems, and said nurse-led walk-in clinics should be set up by the Welsh Assembly Government.

The following day, Dr Gibbons announced his plans to visit A&E departments across south Wales to talk directly to doctors and nurses.

It follows First Minister Rhodri Morgan's visit to the accident and emergency department at Cardiff's University Hospital, where he spent about half-an-hour talking to staff and patients.

Minister acts as hospitals buckle
08 Feb 05 |  South East Wales
Bed shortage protest by doctors
03 Feb 05 |  South West Wales

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