Betsi Cadwaladr Health Board: Watchdog resignation over NHS change

Flint protesters Proposals for an NHS shake-up have sparked protests across north Wales

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A member of the NHS watchdog which backed plans to restructure the health service in north Wales has resigned.

Betsi Cadwaladr Health Board's plans have been opposed by patients, as well as some doctors, nurses and midwives.

But proposals, including moving specialist intensive care for babies in north Wales to England, were backed by the Community Health Council (CHC).

Councillor Huw Edwards, who is a member of the CHC in Gwynedd, said he had lost all confidence in the body.

He said he believed it had "behaved contrary to public opinion and also to their own plans".

Local CHCs are the only bodies with the legal right to refer proposed NHS changes to Health Minister Lesley Griffiths.

They can take the step if they are not satisfied the changes are in the interests of the health service.

Betsi Cadwaladr Health Board met last month to make final decisions on far reaching plans to changes in the NHS in north Wales.

Start Quote

Councillor Huw Edwards

The decision to move the specialist neonatal unit from Glan Clwyd is equally despicable”

End Quote Councillor Huw Edwards

Along with the decision to move neonatal specialist intensive care it decided that four community hospitals should close at Blaenau Ffestiniog, Flint, Llangollen and Prestatyn. Services would be centralised at 10 other sites, it added.

Minor injuries units at Chirk, Colwyn Bay and Ruthin will also close.

The board has insisted it had to overhaul services to meet the challenges of an aging population, retaining and recruiting medical expertise, and to meet financial pressures on the NHS.

Following discussions, Betsi Cadwaladr CHC announced on Thursday that it supports most of the health board's proposals.

They include moving high level intensive care for babies, which is currently provided at Wrexham Maelor and Glan Clwyd Hospital in Bodelwyddan, to Arrowe Park Hospital on the Wirral.

The CHC also backed plans to close several community hospitals, minor injury units and X-ray departments.

'Utterly bewildering'

Gwynedd county councillor Mr Edwards, who represents Caernarfon's Cadnant ward, said he had "lost faith" in the CHC and that Gwynedd's committee had opposed the recommendations in two meetings.

"There are no details at all about provision in the community that the board refers to and that is totally unfair to the areas that will lose their local hospitals," he said.

"The decision to move the specialist neonatal unit from Glan Clwyd is equally despicable."

The CHC has said it does have reservations about some of the health board's plans, such as the availability of capital investment for proposed new primary care developments.

It said it is continuing to talk to the health board "to seek clarification and assurance on these outstanding issues".

Mr Edwards' CHC Gwynedd colleague, Councillor Eryl Jones Williams, says he is also considering resigning from the watchdog.

He said: "I'm very concerned that the views of the local people and in some cases the experts have not been recognised.

"I've been a councillor now for a while and you have to take note of what the public say."

Following the CHC's decision to back the shake-up plans, north Wales AMs from the four main political parties issued a joint statement to criticise the CHC's "utterly bewildering" decision.

Darren Millar (Conservative), Ann Jones (Labour), Llyr Huws Gruffydd (Plaid Cymru) and Aled Roberts (Liberal Democrat) said: "Community health councils are supposed to be a voice for patients in the NHS, but we see little evidence that that is the case from today's statement."

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