South Wales NHS shake-up: More than 200 attend meetings

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Media captionPeople attending a meeting in Pontypridd share their concerns about the proposals

More than 200 people have attended the first of more than 40 public meetings to discuss a major shake-up of NHS services in south Wales.

The first three meetings were held in Pontypridd, Three Cocks, near Hay-on-Wye and Pen-y-fai, Bridgend.

The NHS changes could see the Royal Glamorgan Hospital in Llantrisant stop treating the most serious A&E cases.

Community health leaders have called for a big turnout for the public consultation.

Around 100 people turned up in Pontypridd on Monday night, while up to 80 gathered in Three Cocks, and another 45 turned out in Pen-y-fai.

Dr Paul Worthington, chief officer of Cwm Taf Community Health Council (CHC), had earlier urged as many people as possible to attend the consultation meetings.

They are organised by Abertawe Bro Morgannwg, Aneurin Bevan, Cardiff and Vale, Cwm Taf and Powys health boards.

Gillian Thomas, the chair of Brecon and Radnor Community Health Council, was at the Three Cocks ' meeting.

"It was a good meeting and many views and concerns were aired," she said.

"A lot of the concerns were about services moving further away which is the same for all the areas involved in this consultation, but more so in Powys which is so isolated and doesn't have a district general hospital.

"There were also concerns about access to ambulance services and getting patients to hospitals in time."

Meetings are being held throughout the week in Rhondda, Newport, Aberavon, Brecon, Aberdare and Glynneath.

Proposed changes to the NHS in south Wales include cutting specialist departments from seven to four or five.

Health officials have said the "best fit" is to locate specialist services in Cardiff, Swansea, Merthyr, Bridgend and a new hospital near Cwmbran.

These units would be led by consultants around the clock and throughout the week.

But the plans have been met with opposition from politicians and members of the public. Objectors protested in Pontypridd on Saturday against the proposals for Royal Glamorgan.

"There are an extensive number of meetings across south Wales and we are keen to see as many people as possible attend them," Dr Worthington said.

"It's an opportunity to hear about the proposals from the clinicians. The CHCs and the LHBs [local health boards] are really keen to hear what people have to say about the proposals and what their queries are.

"For those unable to attend the meetings there are links on local health board websites where people can send in their views."

NHS leaders believe services are currently spread too thinly.

They have warned that some specialist hospital services are "on the edge" and could "collapse" unless big changes are made to the way they are delivered.

They argue the changes are essential to ensure hospital care meets UK-wide professional standards and to deal with issues such as a shortage of doctors, an ageing population and financial pressures.

The Royal Glamorgan also stands to lose consultant-led maternity care and specialist baby care as part of the proposals for the future of hospitals in south Wales.

The overall plans involve consultant-led maternity care (obstetrics), specialist baby care (neonatal), specialist children's care (paediatrics) and emergency medicine (A&E).

Eight hospitals in the region currently provide one or more of these services.

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