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Health Service Reorganisation – what is involved?

May 26, 2013 4:21 PM

Politicians and the public alike in the Rhondda and Taff Ely areas are currently getting highly excited about the proposed health service changes as part of the 'South Wales Programme.'

The proposals could mean the removal of some services form the Royal Glamorgan hospital - the services involved are consultant led obstetrics, in-patient paediatric care, neo-natal and A&E. The latter two seem to be of particular concern to people.

The full consultation documents regarding the proposals for health service reconfiguration in South Wales are available here http://www.wales.nhs.uk/SWP The documents, which include an on-line questionnaire are the start of a period of public consultation which runs until 19th July.

It is undoubtedly the case that is changes are not made then patients' lives will be put at risk, as the current staff shortages mean the care that can be provided is not as good as clinicians, or indeed the general public, would want it.

The changes to critical care services themselves will only affect a small percentage of people, although that is little consolation to that small minority. However, surely few people would argue that if the chances of survival are greater by travelling a few extra miles then it is worth it.

In order to try and clarify some things that will not happen.

Most pregnant women who have uncomplicated pregnancies and births will see no change. The current community based services, antenatal clinics (consultant and midwife-led), early pregnancy clinics and midwife-led birthing centres will continue to be available in all hospitals.

(This does not detract from our assertion that we would like to see the Royal Glamorgan as one of the specialist centres.)

Despite some rumours circulating A&E will not close. The consultation document states:

The Labour party locally in their haste to be seen to be (belatedly) supporting the Royal Glamorgan have been coming up with some bizarre claims that do nothing to inform proper debate.

The local press this week quoted Education Minister and Rhondda AM Leighton Andrews saying in relation to A&E provision that it "could take hours and several bus changes" for people in Rhondda to reach Bridgend's Princess of Wales Hospital or Prince Charles Hospital in Merthyr. In practice, people would go to Cardiff and that would lead to congestion at the University Hospital of Wales."

Considering that the emergency cases that are proposed to be treated at one of the five 'super hospitals' would almost certainly be taken there by ambulance then they are not going to be in a position to choose. If you are well enough to catch a bus then you would still be able to be treated at your current A&E department. (Again this does not mean we think the Royal Glamorgan should not be one of the chosen centres and we have major concerns over the ability of hospitals to cope with the rest of the service.)

Health of course is a devolved issue, and in Wales it is the responsibility of the Welsh Labour Government , of which Leighton Andrew is a member. They have failed to address the issue of staff shortages for years, and successive Health Ministers have buried their heads in the sand over problems besetting the service.

That does not stop Pontypridd MP Owen Smith as usual falling back on his mantra that it is all the fault of the UK Government budget cuts. This despite the fact that the combined Health Boards have been at pains to point out this is nothing to do with finance but about clinical efficiency.

So anxious have Labour members locally been to jump on the bandwagon that they have made some unfortunate errors in information they are presenting to the public.

For instance on the website they have set up to support the Royal Glamorgan A&E department Owen Smith talks of the position "which we have consistently put to the health board during the recent engagement process."

The responses to the initial round of public engagement were published on the Cwm Taf website, and can be seen here. There was nothing from Mick Antoniw or Owen Smith. On the Labour website there is a letter from Antoniw - sent a month after the final date for responses. It is unfortunate indeed that the AM and his staff could not put something together within the timescale.