Betsi Cadwaladr health watchdog discusses hospital change concern
Health watchdogs met managers amid concerns over bed closures and cuts in opening hours at community hospitals and minor injuries units in north Wales during the winter.
An expected rise in more serious illnesses, staff sickness and the financial position led to the changes, says Betsi Cadwaladr health board.
The board said the "urgent service changes" were necessary.
But the community health council is concerned at how they were imposed.
Tuesday's talks followed protests by people concerned about the temporary changes between January and March.
About 500 people attended a public meeting at Pwllheli at the end of December to discuss bed closures and a cut in opening hours at the minor injuries unit at the town's Bryn Beryl hospital.
A campaign group was set up in Ruthin, Denbighshire, concerned about the temporary closure of the minor injuries unit at the town's community hospital.
Patients there have been asked to attend their GP surgery or Denbigh Community Hospital minor injury unit instead.
Local hospital winter changes
- In Gwynedd and Anglesey, one ward has closed at Ysbyty Bryn Beryl and the minor injuries unit is open from 09:00-17:00 GMT Monday to Friday. A total of 16 extra beds have been provided at Ysbyty Gwynedd, Bangor and four at Ysbyty Eryri, Caernarfon.
- In Conwy and Denbighshire, six extra beds have opened at Ruthin Community Hospital but the minor injuries unit has closed along with one at Colwyn Bay. There is extra capacity at Ysbyty Glan Clwyd hospital's emergency department in Bodelwyddan.
- In Wrexham and Flintshire, Flint minor injuries unit has closed but six extra beds have been provided at Holywell hospital.
The board has said previously that all changes are temporary over the winter months.
Similar measures are also being taken in Pembrokeshire by the Hywel Dda Local Health Board, involving hospitals at Tenby and Pembroke Dock.
Officials from Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board (BCUHB) which manages health services and members of watchdog Betsi Cadwaladr Community Health Council (BCCHC) met in Abergele on Tuesday.
Pat Billingham, the BCCHC's chief officer said they learnt more about the demands on emergency medical services at the three main hospitals.
"We were also told of a forecast for increased pressures for the next three months and of the problems in recruiting staff," Mrs Billingham said.
The watchdog made it clear that if pressures on services increased and if such plans were needed in the future, the health board should give notification as far in advance as possible.
Mrs Billingham added that members voiced "significant concerns" about the possible impact of changes, temporary or not, on patients.
"We will stay on the case and monitor the impact of changes across north Wales.
"In addition we will be specifically working with local representatives in Pwllheli to track the impact of the changes at Bryn Beryl Hospital."
The health board said it agreed last autumn to organise meetings with stakeholders in February and March, when they would have "another opportunity to be involved in shaping health services locally".
"We have a duty of care and responsibility to ensure patient safety therefore we have taken the necessary action to make these urgent services changes for a three month period," it said in a statement.
"This will ensure our services are not spread too thinly and our patients and staff not put at unnecessary risk."