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Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Fresh reservations about South Wales NHS reorganisation

As an Assembly Member for South Wales West I have already given my view of the proposed reorganisation of certain specialist services across the old counties of Gwent and Glamorgan. Of necessity I have done so in a way that supports my constituents and the services they rely on. That is my job, but it is also something I believe passionately in.

However, according to today's Western Mail the BMA have taken a wider view and found that the proposals still come up short. They say that they have “significant” reservations about the plans put forward under the South Wales Programme:

In response to the consultation, the BMA said they backed the need for change in the NHS in Wales but had major concerns that all the options put forward by the South Wales Programme relied on the building of a new Specialist and Critical Care Centre (SCCC) in Cwmbran.

The SCCC is set to be completed by 2018-19 and will provide services which are currently based at the Royal Gwent and Nevill Hall hospitals. A business case for the facility has been put forward but is still undergoing scrutiny by the Welsh Government.

Dr Philip Banfield, chairman of the BMA’s Welsh Council, said: “We agree that the NHS in Wales is unsustainable for all sorts of reasons. [But] fundamentally there is a problem in having all options predicated on building the SCCC without any contingency for what happens if the building does not take place. It seems an unnecessary risk to develop a plan on something that may be developed in 2018 -19 when the need within NHS in Wales is now. There is a lack of detail in how we get from today to 2018 and there’s a great danger on relying on a hospital that does not exist.

“We are concerned about the lack of detail in the South Wales Programme. We find it difficult to see how the public can comment without the detail and it’s difficult for the professionals to comment.”
Concerns were also raised about whether GPs and health care resources within the community would be able to cope with the increase in demand as well as the impact the changes may have on the ambulance service, which is already struggling to meet performance targets.

Dr Banfield said: “It’s a great worry for us that there seems to be a philosophical change and emphasis on shifting more into the community without expanding that care first. There’s a complete lack of detail about where they are going to extend the focus on community care when we already know there are challenges for GP recruitment in Wales. There’s no detail about out-of-hours services – how it’s going to be staffed and carried out in the future.

These are very valid concerns. From my end of the M4 the role of already over-stretched ambulance and community care services will be crucial and yet there have been no answers as to how they will be able to cope with the additional demand which will inevitably be placed on them. If we do not have a plan to manage the risks we should not take them.
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