South West Wales

Hundreds in Senedd protest at Withybush baby care changes

Withybush protest
Image caption Hundreds travelled from west Wales to attend the protest outside the Senedd

Hundreds gathered at the Senedd in Cardiff Bay to protest against plans to change specialist baby care at a west Wales hospital.

The unit at Withybush Hospital in Haverfordwest, Pembrokeshire, would close in August if plans go ahead.

Save Withybush Action Team called the protest ahead of the outcome of a judicial review starting on 24 June.

Hywel Dda health board and the Welsh government have said the changes would provide a better level of care.

The demonstration was the second this year against the controversial plans.

In February about 1,000 people marched in Haverfordwest after Health Minister Mark Drakeford announced the changes.

As part of a Hywel Dda health board reorganisation, the proposals would see doctors in Carmarthen providing specialist care, with other hospitals eventually providing a midwife-led service.

Bronglais Hospital in Aberystwyth would become a midwife-led maternity unit, although during the transition period it would also retain some consultants.

'Emotive subject'

The plans were revealed a year ago by the health board, but were opposed by the local patients' watchdog over concerns that closing the special care baby unit in Haverfordwest could put lives at risk.

When he announced the changes, Mr Drakeford said the experts who had recommended them had included important safeguards, and had suggested a phased introduction.

A spokesperson for Hywel Dda University Health Board said: "We understand that local health care is an emotive subject and would like to reassure people that the service and care they receive will be safe.

"The Welsh government's scrutiny panel's recommendations were expressly based on "providing the best outcomes and experience for mother and baby" and the conclusion that the new service model will "provide an improved service for Hywel Dda mothers and babies".

The health board will monitor the changes and they will be scrutinised by the Welsh government at the end of the first year.

Image caption Save Withybush Action Team called the protest ahead of the outcome of a judicial review on 24 June

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