PROTEST groups have linked up to fight health changes across North Wales.
Campaigners fighting to save community hospital facilities in Flint and Llangollen have united with pressure groups to form the North Wales Health Alliance.
The alliance is looking to put together a legal challenge to stop the downgrade of services, including the closure of minor injuries units and inpatient beds at Flint and Chirk community hospitals.
In a joint statement, the newly formed group said: “We have come together because there is strength in unity.
“We are considering a legal challenge to the entire process. The advice we have received suggests Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board is vulnerable to a challenge.”
The group may push for a judicial review of the health board’s plans.
This was announced after an emergency meeting in St Asaph on Monday night, which included more than 30 representatives from Flint, Llangollen, Blaenau Ffestiniog, Prestatyn and Llandudno, as well as groups fighting changes to neonatal intensive care in Wrexham Maelor and Glan Clwyd hospitals.
Protesters are waiting to find out if the Community Health Council, which has the power to refer health board proposals to Welsh Government, will ask health minister and Wrexham AM Lesley Griffiths to step in.
The statement from the alliance added: “We understand the Community Health Council executive board is meeting on Wednesday (today).
“We have had a good engagement with some local CHC representatives but have reservations about the executive board. We hope the executive will start to represent the community’s views.”
Carol Williams, deputy chief officer of the CHC health watchdog, said the organisation was still preparing a response, and had until March 1 to lodge a referral.
Jack Reece, from the Save Flint Cottage Hospital action group, said he could not comment individually on joining the North Wales Health Alliance, as members were determined to speak with one voice, but he said the groundswell of protest in Flint was rising.
“Save Flint Hospital will be protesting in Llandudno on Saturday, where Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board is holding a meeting,” he said.
“Since admissions to Flint inpatients were stopped, and the MIU shut, more people have joined us. More people are contacting us daily. The protest has grown and grown.
“The campaign is building momentum. The closures have just infuriated people.”
Wrexham mother Ruth Drake, who has been spearheading the campaign to keep long-term level 3 neonatal services in North Wales at Wrexham Maelor Hospital, said the alliance was “giving us strength in numbers”.
She added: “It shows there is real compassion across the whole of North Wales and it will be very beneficial to be united as a group.”
Mabon ap Gwynfor of the Keep Llangollen Health Services Campaign, now Chairman of North Wales Health Alliance, said: “Some people in and around Llangollen may have given up the fight because the health board have started to move services away before the process has even finished. But the fight is far from over.
“This is no longer just a fight for Llangollen but a fight for our health services across North Wales, including Llangollen, and the negative knock-on affect the closure will have on our friends and families across the region.
“If we are to go down the route of a judicial review we will be looking for financial contributions. All assistance would be gratefully accepted.”
Llangollen councillor Stuart Davies said he was not involved with the campaign groups but would be supporting calls for Ms Griffiths to call in the BCUHB decision in a full Denbighshire Council meeting on Tuesday.
However, campaigners in Chirk, whose hospital’s minor injuries unit closed on Monday, said their part in the campaign was done.
Sybil Jones, of the Chirk Hospital Circle of Friends said: “It’s sad, but above all we’ve still got a hospital, it’s still very, very busy and we’re very lucky.”
A Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board spokesman said: “We understand there are strongly-held views about the service changes. We have had to make difficult decisions about healthcare in order to ensure we can continue to provide safe and sustainable services.
“We believe the consultation gave a fair opportunity for people to have their say, and we took additional time to ensure we considered the views expressed to us thoroughly.
“If there is a legal challenge we will respond to any issue that is raised.”
See full story in the Free Press