Wales politics

Betsi Cadwaladr sick baby care: Carwyn Jones to decide on 'call in'

Baby incubator
Image caption Intensive neonatal care could move from north Wales to a hospital on Wirral

First Minister Carwyn Jones says he will personally decide whether to "call in" controversial proposals about specialist NHS care for sick babies in north Wales.

He said he would consider the matter "over the coming days".

Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board wants to use a hospital in north-west England to provide neonatal intensive care.

The North Wales Health Alliance said the whole plan should be called in.

AMs from all parties have voiced concerns about the plan.

'Make it clear'

However, the local community health council - the patients' watchdog - has decided not to use its powers to refer the decision to Welsh government ministers.

At question time in the Senedd on Tuesday, Mr Jones said ministers could intervene anyway.

He said he would take personal responsibility because Health Minister Lesley Griffiths's Wrexham constituency would be directly affected.

Mr Jones said: "Ministers have the right to call in these plans anyway and this is under consideration at the moment.

"Just to make it clear, I will be taking that decision because the minister has a constituency in the Betsi Cadwaladr board area and I will be considering this over the coming days."

'Potentially dangerous'

The proposals to move services for the sickest and most premature babies away from north Wales to England has been opposed by AMs from all four parties, but the health board says it is the only way it can maintain a safe and sustainable service.

It would mean high level intensive care, which is currently provided at Wrexham Maelor and Glan Clwyd Hospital in Bodelwyddan, would go to Arrowe Park Hospital on the Wirral.

Conservative health spokesman Darren Millar called for a clear timetable.

"Very serious concerns have been raised by clinicians over the decision to shift this care to England and I urge Mr Jones to consider how ill-thought out and potentially dangerous this could be," he said.

Plaid Cymru spokeswoman Elin Jones said: "Let's hope that the first minister decides to develop health services in Wales, rather than outsourcing them to an English system of which he has been consistently critical."

The North Wales Health Alliance has called on the first minister to call in the whole plan.

The alliance- set up after a public meeting against the plans - said Mr Jones's announcement was "an exercise in buck passing that still isn't over".

"It's been a sorry mess that has left various health boards, health councils and politicians scrabbling to dig themselves out of a huge hole of their own making.

"All this could have been avoided if they had listened to the people of north Wales in the first place."

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