GP concern over Betsi Cadwaladr board's hospital plan

GPs are "nervous" about a shake-up in community hospital services in north Wales, a doctors' leader warns.

But Dr Phillip Banfield said the proposals were the harsh reality of Wales' "health care rationing debate".

Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board (BCUHB) is the first in Wales to outline plans for balancing the books.

Some of the plans under consideration involve the closure of two community hospitals in Flint and Blaenau Ffestiniog.

The health board says it will listen to people's concerns during planned consultation being held over the summer before any decisions are taken.

£65m shortfall

Two community hospitals could close at Flint and Blaenau Ffestiniog with community hospital beds lost at Llangollen.

Minor injury accident departments may shut at others with the loss of x-ray services under a major health service shake-up in north Wales.

"The GPs are very nervous about what may happen if community beds are restricted," said Dr Banfield, chair of the British Medical Association's Clwyd North division.

"Our colleagues in general practice have raised concerns about the effects of cuts on community services and this is why it is important the public get involved in the consultation process," said Dr Banfield, a consultant obstetrician at Ysbyty Glan Clwyd hospital, Bodelwyddan, Denbighshire.

Health board chief executive Mary Burrows told BBC Radio Wales the changes were about improving patient care and were not solely about costs as any changes will not be brought in until next year whereas the health board's current £65m shortfall was an "in year problem".

She said the biggest problems faced by the organisation were costs due to staff shortages and overheads from building costs.

"If we can reduce our agency costs, particularly on locum doctors, we spend a lot on agency nurses to try to keep a lot of our services going... there is probably somewhere in the region of about £15m we can save there."

She said part of the plan to create 10 hub hospitals switching services from others was to reduce costs because some facilities were only a few miles apart.

And she said the organisation was looking to cast its net wider to find trainees at universities in the north west of England as well as Cardiff.

Dr Banfield said: "We believe that Wales can train its way out of shortages with staff."

A total of 10-weeks of public consultation begins in August.

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