North Wales NHS: Green light for baby care proposals

The board has proposed that very sick babies should receive care at a hospital on the Wirral

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Controversial plans to move specialist intensive care for babies in north Wales to England look set to go ahead.

The green light comes after the patients watchdog for north Wales decided not to refer the proposal to the Welsh government.

But there are concerns about other aspects of a shake-up proposed by Betsi Cadwaladr Health Board.

The board's proposal for very sick babies to receive care at a hospital on the Wirral has been heavily criticised.

It would mean high level intensive care, which is currently provided at Wrexham Maelor and Glan Clwyd Hospital in Bodelwyddan, would go to Arrowe Park Hospital on the Wirral.

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Community health councils are supposed to be a voice for patients in the NHS, but we see little evidence that that is the case from today's statement.”

End Quote North Wales AMs

Betsi Cadwaladr Community Health Council (CHC) has given its support to the plan.

The CHC has also decided not to refer the board's other proposals to close several community hospitals, minor injury units and X-ray departments.

Opposition

The proposal for neonatal care has provoked widespread opposition from campaigners who claim sick babies will be put at greater risk.

It has been criticised by the Royal College of Midwives, the Royal College of Nurses and the British Medical Association and local politicians.

Health managers say the move will provide better care for the small number of babies - around 36 a year - who require specialist care because the current provision in north Wales does not meet UK-wide standards.

The health board also argues it is not possible to sustain the most intensive level three care for babies in north Wales because of a shortage of specialist doctors.

Local CHCs are the only bodies with the legal right to refer proposed NHS changes to Health Minister Lesley Griffiths.

They can take the step if they are not satisfied the changes are in the interests of the health service.

Betsi Cadwaladr Health Board met on 18 January to make final decisions on far reaching plans to changes in north Wales.

Along with the decision to move neonatal specialist intensive care it decided that four community hospitals should close at Blaenau Ffestiniog, Flint, Llangollen and Prestatyn. Services would be centralised at 10 other sites.

Minor injuries units at Chirk, Colwyn Bay and Ruthin will close.

The board has insisted it had to overhaul services to meet the challenges of an aging population, retaining and recruiting medical expertise, and to meet financial pressures on the NHS.

The CHC says it had decided not to refer these changes to the health minister either, but it "has reservations in relation to the availability of capital investment for the proposed new primary care developments in line with the timescales and the implementation plans of the health board".

It is continuing to talk to the health board "to seek clarification and assurance on these outstanding issues".

North Wales AMs from the four main political parties issued a joint statement to criticise the CHC's "utterly bewildering" decision.

Darren Millar (Conservative), Ann Jones (Labour), Llyr Huws Gruffydd (Plaid Cymru) and Aled Roberts (Liberal Democrat) said: "Community health councils are supposed to be a voice for patients in the NHS, but we see little evidence that that is the case from today's statement."

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