South West Wales

Prince Philip A&E: Hospital shake-up move 'deplored'

Prince Philip Hospital in Llanelli
Image caption Campaigners in Llanelli have been given leave for a judicial review of the A&E changes

A controversial decision to turn the A&E service at Prince Philip Hospital in Llanelli into a nurse-led unit supported by GPs has been heavily criticised.

Carmarthenshire councillors tabled a motion saying they "deplored" Health Minister Mark Drakeford's decision.

It would increase pressure on Glangwili and Morriston hospitals, they said.

The Welsh government said the minister had backed the decision of an independent panel of experts.

Council leader Kevin Madge said: "I believe that the only way forward is to get the health minister down, and we will then negotiate and carry on the fight.

"We will continue making representations to the ministers. At the end of the day we have got to ensure that our services are safe."

Disputed changes

Campaigners in Llanelli have been given leave for a judicial review of the A&E changes at the hospital, but Mr Drakeford told AMs last month he would approve the plans.

The judicial review is due to take place in November.

The shake-up is one of several disputed changes to hospital services in west Wales proposed by Hywel Dda Health Board and referred to the minister.

They include:

  • Redesigning emergency care at Prince Philip Hospital to be a nurse-led service supported by doctors, although the hospital would retain a 24/7 emergency medical assessment and admissions unit
  • Centralising more complex (level two) baby care at West Wales General Hospital which would lead to the closure of the specialist baby care unit at Withybush Hospital
  • Closing two minor injuries units at Tenby and Pembroke Dock with staff redeployed to Withybush
  • Closing Mynydd Mawr Community Hospital in Tumble with services delivered in the community and at Prince Philip Hospital

In February the Community Health Council (CHC) said it could not support most of the proposals and referred them to the then Health Minister Lesley Griffiths for a decision.

Ms Griffiths told the CHC in March that its referral did not satisfy Welsh government rules as it had not proposed alternatives.

Scrutiny panel

A month later, the CHC said it could not accept the health board's neonatal and A&E changes and referred those proposals for a second time to the Welsh government.

Meanwhile, the CHC was able to "conditionally accept" the closure of the two minor injuries units and the closure of Mynydd Mawr hospital which are now being implemented.

In response, the new health minister Mark Drakeford set up a scrutiny panel led by chief medical officer Dr Ruth Hussey to "consider these issues" and "examine all relevant documentation".

The notice by Carmarthenshire councillors reads: "Carmarthenshire County Council deplores the decision to replace the level two A&E at Prince Philip Hospital with a nurse practitioner-led and GP-supported provision.

"We will continue to lobby the minister and the health board to review this decision to reduce resources and services at the hospital, and call for the level two A&E services to be preserved in its current configuration and where appropriate, enhanced.

"We would further request from the health minister a statement detailing the services available at our hospitals."

A Welsh government spokesperson said: "The Health Minister, Mark Drakeford, backed the recommendations of an independent group of clinical experts to implement the changes to improve services at Prince Philip Hospital.

"The decision of the panel was influenced by their views on the best way to maintain high quality care for local residents.

"It would be plainly wrong for the health minister to question the judgement and recommendations of a group of such esteemed health professionals."

The spokesperson added that the A&E saw 33,000 patients in 2011/12 of which 6,500 were major cases and 422 of those needed a transfer to another hospital.

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