Wales NHS will 'collapse' without reform, First Minister warns
First Minister Carwyn Jones says health services in Wales will "collapse" unless hospitals are reorganised.
He said he did not expect Labour to pay a price at the ballot box for unpopular decisions that could mean some people have to travel further for treatment.
The public wants a "safe and sustainable" NHS, he told BBC Wales.
Local health boards are in the process of finalising reorganisation plans, many of which have sparked protests by opponents.
The plans could be referred to ministers by the local patient watchdogs, the community health councils (CHCs).
Because of that, Mr Jones has declined to comment on specific proposals to change the way services are delivered.
However, he told BBC Wales' Sunday Politics programme that changes to the NHS in Wales were necessary.
'Safe and sustainable'
He said: "It would collapse otherwise - there's no question of it.
"I think people want to see a safe and sustainable health service.
"I think the worst thing that could possibly happen is that nothing happens and then we see services just disappearing at random all over the place.
"People would say 'hang on a second, why didn't you do anything?' and that is far, far worse."
Asked if he thought he would pay a political price, he said: "No I don't believe we will, because I think that people will see that what we are trying to do is to have a safe and sustainable health service."
The government would look at proposals in detail if they are referred by CHCs, Mr Jones said.
"But there is no getting away from the fact that there has to be change in the health service for it to be safe in the future."
Some services will have to be delivered in England, he added.
"We can't replicate the entire British NHS here in Wales.
"There are some conditions that are so specialised that they can only be treated in specialised centres, like Great Ormond Street [children's hospital in London]. We're not going to replicate that in Wales.
"It's about ensuring that we have safe and sustainable services that are available to the people of Wales."
But Conservative assembly member Angela Burns said it was a "masterclass in how to avoid responsibility".
The Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire AM added: "Everybody recognises the NHS has to change, but where we haven't had a proper debate is about what are deemed essential services.
"What we're having at the moment is the health boards and deanery saying 'we can't get these people or those kind of people and you can only have that and you'll have to go elsewhere for other things'.
"That simply isn't acceptable, we need to talk about what we need locally."
In north Wales, Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board's decision to close four community hospitals and transfer care for seriously ill babies to England has prompted local opposition.
Hywel Dda Health Board, which covers mid and west Wales, has approved plans to close minor injury units and centralise other services affecting patients in Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion and Pembrokeshire.
Health boards in south Wales are expected to unveil proposals later in the spring.