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Saturday, September 30, 2006


Both the Western Mail and the BBC have used my press release revealing details of a behind-closed doors workshop within Swansea NHS Trust that discussed the closure of Singleton Hospital and its relocation to Morriston, which would then become the single-site hospital for the area.

The minutes made it clear that building a brand new hospital at Felindre was not the Trust's main option. These proposals are dismissed as having "planning risks". They go on to speculate that Singleton Hospital will lose A&E, diagnostics and the intensive care unit, effectively turning it into a primary care resource centre. Cancer patients will be moved when the linear accelerators used to treat the disease reach the end of their operational lives. They state that selling Singleton will gain the trust's commitment to the project.

Services to be retained at Singleton could include outpatients, the minor injury unit and day surgery, but keeping some of these services will maintain the disadvantages and inefficiencies of split-site working and duplication. Effectively, this site would be turned into a primary care centre.

Naturally, the Trust's Acting Chief Executive accuses me of 'mischief-making' and of 'mis-representing the situation' and yet the minutes are crystal-clear. What is not so transparent is how the decision will be taken and on what criteria it will be based. Surely, it is a matter of public interest when the local NHS Trust starts to discuss the closure of a well-established and much-loved General Hospital. Why would an attempt to bring those discussions into the public domain be considered mischief-making?

Mr. Campbell goes on to say that I "did not bother to contact the trust to discuss the situation before making (my) public accusations." This is true. But then again it is also obvious from the minutes that Swansea NHS Trust has failed to engage even its own partners in the work it is doing on the single-site hospital. Absent from the list of attendees are Swansea Council Social Services, the Local Health Board, the Unions, the Community Health Council, the Assembly Government and many other interested parties.

When the Trust does not even extend an invitation to its own partners to participate in working up one of the most significant health developments in the Swansea area since the creation of the NHS, then they should not be surprised that others view them as less than inclusive, accountable or transparent on this and other issues.

The Western Mail's comment page sums it up perfectly: "NHS trust boards cannot be allowed to pick and choose what they consult on, and what they decide unilaterally, when a much-loved resource such as Singleton Hospital is at stake. While NHS trust board officials have the right to discuss options for the future, any final decision must be taken in partnership with the public and not presented as a failt accompli."

Interestingly, I gave this story to the South Wales Evening Post last Tuesday as an exclusive. They are the paper which covers the area around Singleton and Morriston Hospital and they have a circulation well in excess of that of the Western Mail. By the time it came to Friday they had failed to use it. They still do not seem to have room in their paper. We rang the reporter concerned who said that he had not had time to look at it. 'We have been dealing with important stories', he told us. We gave up and released it more generally.
Peter will you please send the BBC a new photo.
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