Hywel Dda: Keep talking, watchdog and health board told
A patient watchdog has been told to resume talks with a local health board over an NHS shake-up in mid and west Wales.
Hywel Dda Community Health Council (CHC) referred proposed service changes to the Welsh government.
But in one of her last actions as health minister, Lesley Griffiths told the CHC its referral did not propose alternatives.
She was replaced by Mark Drakeford in a cabinet reshuffle on Thursday.
Welsh Conservatives attacked the move as a "blatant disregard" of the CHC's views.
It has been asked to "resume dialogue" with Hywel Dda LHB "as a matter of urgency" and to make it clear which specific proposals it does not support. It has been given a deadline of 5 April.
End Quote Welsh government
The Hywel Dda CHC referral does not propose alternatives”
Among the changes it has proposed, Hywel Dda Health Board would close a special care baby unit at Withybush Hospital in Haverfordwest.
There would also be changes to accident and emergency care at Prince Philip Hospital in Llanelli.
Two minor injuries units at Tenby and South Pembrokeshire hospitals would close, as would Mynydd Mawr Community Hospital in the Tumble.
Local campaigns have been fighting to protect services.
Local health boards (LHBs) around Wales have been drawing up proposals that the Welsh government says are necessary to put the NHS on a safe and sustainable footing.'Disappointed'
If a CHC is not satisfied with the changes or believe consultation on any proposal has been inadequate, they have the power to refer the plans to Welsh government ministers.
Hywel Dda LHB said it was disappointed that its CHC had opted for a referral last month.
Managers have insisted an overhaul is necessary to meet the challenges of an aging population, retain and recruit medical expertise, and to meet financial pressures on the NHS.
The Hywel Dda area covers Ceredigion, Pembrokeshire and Carmarthenshire.
A Welsh government spokesperson said: "In line with the agreed guidance on consultations on proposed service changes, any referral by a community health council must indicate alternative options which it believes will better serve patients.
"The Hywel Dda CHC referral does not propose alternatives.
"Therefore the CHC has been asked to resume its dialogue with the health board as a matter of urgency, in order to make clear which of the proposals it can support and which it judges should be referred.
"Any referrals, accompanied by detailed alternative proposals for the services in question, will need to be submitted by 5 April."
Tory health spokesman Darren Millar said: "It beggars belief that the views of a watchdog representing the public can be so blatantly disregarded.
"I hope the new health minister - whose appointment is welcome - will take a far more appropriate approach to an issue that affects many thousands of people."