NHS in north Wales 'sleepwalking into disaster'

Wrexham Maelor Hospital
Image caption Wrexham Maelor Hospital is one of the centres where general emergency surgery could be concentrated

The NHS will "sleepwalk into disaster" in north Wales without changes to hospitals, according to a health service official.

Plans are being discussed to concentrate general emergency surgery at two hospitals instead of three.

The two hospitals will be chosen from Wrexham Maelor, Ysbyty Gwynedd in Bangor and Glan Clwyd in Bodelwyddan.

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Media captionGeoff Ryall-Harvey, chief officer of the North Wales Community Health Council, said the body had not been consulted with

Betsi Cadwaladr heath board says some services need to centralise as they are spread too thinly.

While general emergency surgery would continue at two hospitals, the third - which has not yet been chosen - would be used for elective, or planned, surgery.

The health board is considering a range of options and changes will be announced in April.

Betsi Cadwaladr medical director Matthew Makin said the board is responding to an ageing population, wants to stop an "over-reliance" on using hospitals to care for people and is contending with difficulties recruiting doctors for all specialties across the UK.

"So at the moment we are faced with those three big challenges and if we do nothing we would simply be sleepwalking into disaster," he said.

Image caption Matthew Makin says a range of options are being considered

There is concern among some staff about the changes, particularly at Glan Clwyd who fear their hospital will be chosen, according to an exchange of leaked emails.

Plaid Cymru AM Llyr Gruffydd said: "The overriding consideration in any change to the health service has to be clinically led, has to be led by the professional views of the medical experts.

"And what emerges in the emails of course is that is not the case."

BBC Wales can also reveal the Community Health Council (CHC) has warned that staff are deeply divided.

In a letter to the board's leadership, the chairman and chief officer of the CHC said a workshop in January "would have been fine for scene-setting five years ago when sustainable services were first addressed, but that at this late stage it was woefully short on detail".

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