Go-ahead for A&E ‘downgrade’
Tuesday 24th September 2013, 5:21PM BST.
Plans to turn the accident and emergency service at Llanelli’s Prince Philip Hospital into a nurse-led unit have been given the go-ahead.
The controversial proposals had been backed by Hywel Dda Health Board chiefs months ago, but had the brakes on after they were formally referred to Wales’s Health Minister Mark Drakeford.
He enlisted a panel of experts to review the situation.
The minister has said a shake-up of services is necessary, despite opposition from political rivals and campaign groups in Llanelli.
In a statement to AMs he said: “Change is unavoidable in the Welsh NHS, but proposals for change need to be concluded in a considered and timely fashion.”
Shadow health minister Darren Millar AM described the development as worrying.
He said: “L abour has confirmed more hospital downgrading in Wales, despite previous assurances that this would not happen.
“As Labour’s leader talked about the NHS on a conference stage in Brighton, his party’s only health minister was announcing hospital downgrading in Wales. That’s the real-life example of what truly happens to the NHS in Labour’s hands.”
Plaid Cymru’s Mid West and Wales AM Simon Thomas said the announcement was disappointing.
“T he panel’s decision to support the reconfiguration of life-saving A&E services away from the people of Llanelli is extremely concerning,” he added.
“We believe that lifesaving services should be located as close to patients as possible, and therefore we believe that retaining the doctor-led A&E service in the hospital is important.
“I am also concerned that the increased pressure that will be put on Morriston Hospital in Swansea has not been considered.”
Earlier this year, Hywel Dda Health Board made several recommendations on wide-ranging proposals to reorganise health services in its area.
As well as changing Llanelli’s hospital A&E unit – a move labelled by critics as “downgrading” – health chiefs also favoured centralising complex baby care at Glangwili hospital in Carmarthen. The move would ultimately lead to the closure of the specialist baby care unit at Withybush Hospital in Haverfordwest.
In his statement to AMs, Mr Drakeford said the planned changes to Hywel Dda’s neonatal care had not yet been approved.
He has asked the health board to do further work on how its obstetric, midwifery, and gynaecological services would be affected by the plans.
However, the minister did say he endorsed the “underlying model” that more complicated care for babies should be centralised.
“I must leave members in no doubt, however, about the underlying model of neonatal services which the panel endorses,” he said.
” The provision of neonatal special care facilities across all Hywel Dda hospitals is neither safe nor sustainable.
“I have outlined the model for neonatal services recommended to me by the expert panel. Its final conclusion, however, awaits the additional work I have also set out.
“Once that has been completed, I will ask the panel to reconvene and provide me with its final advice.
“I hope to be able to bring the whole process to an end through a further statement to the Assembly when we return after the Christmas recess.”