Wales politics

Heart treatment service: 'Clear decision needed' over future

Dr Graham Thomas
Image caption Dr Graham Thomas established the one-stop diagnostic clinics in 2015

Uncertainty over funding for a heart treatment service is making it difficult to recruit and retain staff, its clinical lead has said.

North Wales Community Cardiology Service, which examines and diagnoses people with suspected heart conditions, has funding until March.

Dr Graham Thomas called for a clear decision on the future of the service.

Betsi Cadwaladr Health Board said it was carrying out a robust evaluation to ensure the best use of public funds.

Dr Thomas, a GP in Corwen, Denbighshire, established the one-stop diagnostic clinics in 2015 but said they had been funded by a series of six-month contracts.

The service directly employs 15 staff across 11 locations including Flint in Flintshire, Llandudno in Conwy county, Dolgellau and Porthmadog in Gwynedd and Holyhead, Anglesey.

He said: "The staff enjoy working in the service, they just want the security of a contract that's going to enable them to plan ahead, to pay their mortgages etc, rather than an extension every six months, which is the current situation.

"When one of our senior nurses retired we were unable to replace her because there's no long-term funding available.

"Similarly if people go off sick or move onto other posts - which are permanent so they can have more security for their own futures - we're unable to backfill temporarily or recruit new staff members."

He said there was "genuine concern" among senior clinicians that the health board could not make "relevant decisions in a timely manner".

Image caption The service uses ultrasounds to diagnose heart conditions

"We need people in positions of authority to make a clear decision... decide whether or not they're going to fund the service and commit to long-term funding."

A spokesman for Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board said: "It's entirely wrong to suggest we are looking to cut funding to this service.

"As with all requests the health board receives to commit funding, we need to go through a robust evaluation of the benefits of non-recurring projects to ensure the best use of public funds.

"[The] request for a business case was not about stopping the service, but about ensuring we have the best approach to providing this service to people across north Wales."

He added the health board "fully recognises the value of the heart failure service" and was working to "ensure this service remains available to people in north Wales."

A Welsh Government spokesperson said: "This is an investment matter for the health board. We expect them to invest in the appropriate services to meet the needs of their local population."

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