Wales

Health reforms: Betsi Cadwaladr plans worry watchdog

Image caption The Betsi Cadwaladr health board in north Wales is proposing wide-ranging changes to hospital services

The patient watchdog for the NHS in north Wales says it cannot approve plans to overhaul hospital services.

The Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board (BCUHB) proposals would see two community hospitals and some units elsewhere close.

But the Betsi Cadwaladr Community Health Council (CHC) said it did not think at the moment that the proposals were in the interest of patients.

The board said it would work with the watchdog to address its concerns.

Assurances sought

In a strongly worded statement, the CHC's chief officer Pat Billingham said: "Based on what we know now, we cannot give the health board's proposals a 'green light'.

"We need more information and assurances about several issues - including services for people living in rural areas, respite care for patients and carers, and closer work with local authorities and others who provide care for people - before we can look at the proposals again."

The comments came as the watchdog published a 13-page response to BCUHB's consultation on changes to the NHS in north Wales.

It criticises the health board for a lack of detail on some of the proposals put forward, and the impact it will have on staffing and finances.

Under the spotlight are controversial changes to community hospitals, which would see Blaenau Ffestiniog in Gwynedd and Flint effectively close.

A move to alter intensive neo-natal baby care at Glan Clwyd hospital has also sparked protest, as the health board said it wished to move the most serious cases to Arrowe Park Hospital in Wirral.

Dr Christine Evans, chair of the CHS, said: "We have told the health board that we do not, at the moment, think any of the proposals are in the interest of people who use services and we cannot support the proposals for x-ray services and minor injuries units at all.

'Significant challenges'

"We really do understand that the health board has to deal with some difficult problems but the health board has not yet given enough information about both the benefits and risks of its proposals for patients and carers - and what it will do to deal with those risks."

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Media captionDr Christine Evans tells Oliver Hides why a patient watchdog is opposing health shake-up plans in north Wales

"We can - indeed, must - object to proposals for change if we believe that those risks outweigh the benefits and are not in the interests of people who use services," she added.

The CHC has the power to ask the health minister to call in the plans.

The Betsi Cadwaladr board said it acknowledged the response from the watchdog, and the fact that the CHC recognised the "significant challenges that the NHS faces in coming years".

"We welcome the CHC's broad support for the reasoning behind the proposals, the general direction we wish to follow and for a number of our specific proposals, as well as their agreement that these are in line with national policy," said the health board in a statement.

"We also recognise that they have expressed concerns regarding the detail of some of the proposals and over the next six to eight weeks will work with the CHC to respond to these."

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