Fierce fight-back over hospital closures plan


Helen Davies

HEALTH care reforms in Ruthin and Llangollen will go ahead despite fierce opposition.

Llangollen Community Hospital will close and Ruthin Community Hospital will lose its minor injuries unit and X-ray services department following a meeting of Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board (BCUHB) last Friday in St Asaph.

“This decision is a kick in the teeth for local campaigners,” said Clwyd West AM Darren Millar.

"Ruthin Community Hospital is an important part of the health jigsaw in rural Denbighshire and news that it is to lose its minor injuries unit and X-ray services will come as a massive blow to the local community.”

He added: "With A and E departments busier than ever and hospitals bursting at the seams, downgrading community hospitals in this way seems to fly in the face of common sense.”

Ten hospital ‘hubs’ will be developed, among them Denbigh Infirmary, Ysbyty Glan Clwyd, Mold Community Hospital and Wrexham Maelor Hospital.

These will offer seven day a week minor injuries services and an X-ray service available Monday to Friday.

The GP practice in Llangollen will be approached to provide a minor injuries service for local residents and inpatient beds currently in the town’s community hospital will instead be provided in Chirk.

Llangollen councillor Stuart Davies said the move to close the town’s hospital was expected.

“But what I am concerned about though is that no facilities close until the new ones are ready to go,” he said.

He said BCUHB had suggested the Llangollen Community Hospital may be closed immediately, with services being taken over by GPs, nursing homes, care at home and Chirk Hospital until a new health centre for Llangollen is built.

The decision followed a public consultation last year which saw concerns raised by residents living in Ruthin and Llangollen and action groups set up to fight the plans.

It was also confirmed on Friday that intensive neonatal care would be contracted to Arrowe Park on the Wirral, meaning babies born under 27 weeks will be cared for outside of the BCUHB area.

Vale of Clwyd AM Ann Jones said she was “deeply disappointed” by the decision, following a “hard fought battle”.

“The meeting of the board on Friday was, in my view, little more than an exercise to rubber-stamp the plans,” she said.

“It merely played lip service to scrutiny as the proposals were passed unanimously with few searching questions asked.”

Denbighshire County Council gave a mixed response to the plans.

"We are disappointed that the health board has decided against a joint hub for Ruthin/Denbigh and there is further disappointment at the closure of the minor injuries unit and x-ray facility in Ruthin, despite strong local opposition,” said Cllr Bobby Feeley, Denbighshire County Councillor’s lead member for social care.

“Another key concern for us is the risk posed by plans to close in-patient care beds at Prestatyn and Llangollen hospitals before new services are in place.

"We believe there is a lack of clearly costed undertakings to improve transport to underpin the changes and to provide services to support carers. Although the transport issues were 'noted' by the board, they did not seem to have come up with any solution, this is particularly important for rural areas.

"The fact there would be no neo-natal intensive care in North Wales is another issue of concern.”

She added: "However, we are pleased that minor injuries unit services will be commissioned from GPs in Corwen and Llangollen and that the health board is committed to plan implementation jointly."

Other hospitals in North Wales will also be affected by the plans including Blaenau Ffestiniog, Flint and Prestatyn.

Some changes to the original plans were made following the consultation including a decision to designate Mold Community Hospital as one of the ‘hub’ hospitals, retaining minor injuries and X-ray services.

Helen Birtwhistle, director of the Welsh NHS Confederation, said: “We want to reassure the public, many of whom are understandably anxious, that the decisions about change are driven by the need to improve care, and not to cut costs. 

“But please also be prepared to accept those decisions as a genuine endeavour to provide high quality health services consistently to the population, wherever they live in Wales.”

See full story in the Free Press

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