THOUSANDS HAVE SAY ON HEALTH PLANS
A consultation exercise over the future of health services in West Wales has attracted a massive response, as CHRISTIE BANNON reports
AROUND 51,000 people have signed their names on petitions linked to radical plans on the future of health services in West Wales.
There have also been 5,395 questionnaires filled in and 160 events attracting more than 4,000 people.
It follows a 12-week public consultation by Hywel Dda University Health Board on three options for how hospital and community services should be delivered going forward in Carmarthenshire, Pembrokeshire and Ceredigion.
They included proposals such as making Glangwili a community hospital, downgrading Prince Philip Hospital and even building a new hospital near Whitland.
But despite the big response and the tens of thousands of names on petitions, the health board has stated that the final decision on which option to pursue “will not be determined by numbers alone’”
Chief executive Steve Moore, pictured, explained: “We have committed throughout this process to be as open and inclusive as possible and we’ve strived to go above and beyond expectations for continuous engagement because it is the right thing to do and because we have learnt so much from discussion, new ideas and challenge.
“We are therefore making this report available to our patients, staff, stakeholders and communities so we can all take time to read and consider its contents.”
There was support for some elements of the consultation, including the case for change, strengthening community models, separating planned and urgent care and provision of a new hospital in the south of the Hywel Dda area.
The proposed community hubs and hospitals received a negative response, with recurring suggestions for hubs to be considered in Milford Haven/ Neyland, Fishguard/Goodwick, Crymych, Lampeter and Llandysul.
There were also concerns over the loss of community beds, with specific reference to Amman Valley Hospital.
The proposed location for a new urgent and emergency care hospital between Narberth and St Clears also had a “high level of disagreement”.
Arguments were put forward instead for building the new hospital near Carmarthen , due its central location between Haverfordwest and Llanelli.
Travel and access to services (especially for those who were vulnerable or isolated) and the limitations of roads and public transport were just a few of the issues highlighted.
Overall, proposals A and B had considerably more support than proposal C.
People in Ceredigion tended to support proposal A, followed by B, while those in Carmarthenshire tended to support proposal B, followed by C.
Residents in Pembrokeshire supported proposal A over B and C but with support for an alternative proposal.
NHS staff tended to favour proposal B over A.
There was also substantial support for alternative options, with the vast majority referencing the retention or enhancement of existing services at Withybush Hospital.
It was generally recognised that proposal A was likely to maximise the resources available for investment and the delivery of community-based services and many believed the benefits of adopting the most cost-effective option shouldn’t be understated, given the ongoing financial pressures and increasing needs of an ageing population.
The feedback suggested that the main advantage in support of Proposal B was the ability to deliver services locally within the health board area for as many people as possible.
But many had concerns that if Prince Philip Hospital did not remain a local general hospital, then large numbers of residents from the most populated areas would inevitably choose to receive services in ABMU health board.
The health board will now go through a period of ‘conscientious consideration,’ where it will consider views and implications heard during the consultation and look at any alternative options suggested, before reevaluating and proposing a future service model.
Any suggested proposals will go through the same process as those explored before the consultation began. They will then be analysed by a range of clinical staff to see if they are viable.
A recommended way forward will then be presented to the local health board on Wednesday, September
26, in Carmarthenshire Council chambers.