A Plaid Cymru politician has responded to revelations earlier today that the Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board is considering downgrading A&E facilities at one of the three general hospitals it runs in North Wales, which includes Wrexham Maelor.
Llyr Gruffydd said: “Talk of removing services from one of the three A&E departments in North Wales will cause great concern in the community.
"Every month, more than 15,000 people attend A&E in Bangor, Bodelwyddan or Wrexham (https://statswales.wales.gov.uk/Catalogue/Health-and-Social-Care/NHS-Hospital-Waiting-Times/Accident-and-Emergency/PerformanceAgainst4HourWaitingTimesTarget-by-MajorHospital) - to expect people to travel 30 miles or more to the next nearest one is dangerous and unreasonable.
“A study by Hallam University found that for every 10km additionally travelled there was an additional 1% mortality among patients with potentially life-threatening conditions (http://www.zen142533.zen.co.uk/SWATcontd/traumacentre_documents/Distance%20and%20Mortality%20in%20emerg%20EMJ2007.pdf).
Put simply, centralisation kills and for North Wales it will mean more people dying unnecessarily if they have to travel to another hospital.
“In 2010-11 there was an emergency care review that took account of the region’s rural nature and decided three sites were sufficient. What has changed?
"We seem to be on a never-ending process of centralising services without being told what the end game is. Does the Labour government driving through these changes want to see one super-hospital in the north? Or do they want to transfer yet more health services to the Wirral?
“We’ve already seen too many health services from the north being moved across the border – is A&E the latest that will go? I will be seeking assurances from both the Health Minister and the health board that this is not the case. Plaid Cymru wants to improve our health service in North Wales and maintain specialist services rather than see it further downgraded.”
The North Wales Health Alliance first raised concerns about the possible removal of one A&E department in the north after it was openly discussed at a stakeholder meeting in July 2013.
Mabon ap Gwynfor, speaking on behalf of the NWHA, said: “Back in July we were horrified to hear plans being openly discussed to remove one of the three A&E departments.
"There was open talk about the possibility of Wrexham closing and patients travelling to the Wirral for A&E care. The health board publicly denied it was on the agenda but just six months later we find the health minister talking about the same removal of service.
“Behind closed doors, there appears to be a master plan to centralise and reduce health services in the north because we’re an inconveniently rural region.
“We’ve seen small community hospitals closed, additional pressure piled on the district general hospitals until they are at breaking point in terms of ambulances queuing up to discharge patients and now there is talk of downgrading them as well.
“We challenge Betsi Cadwaladr to come clean about their ultimate goal. Do they want just one big super hospital? Do they have a vision for improving our NHS? We would also question what Mark Drakeford’s ambition is for our health services - how much further does he expect us to travel to get treated?”