FAR from being ‘OK’ as your headline of January 31 suggests, Hywel Dda’s mental health ‘consultation’ should serve as a grave warning to us all.

Statistics suggest that one in four of us will suffer from mental health issues; Hywel Dda actually engaged with less than 1 per cent of the population and used assent with obvious benefits (such as a single point of contact) to drive through a model which ultimately will lead to all acute adult psychiatristled beds being centralised in Carmarthen.

We are supposed to accept that our purpose-built, 12-year-old unit at Bro Cerwyn is ‘obsolete’, but that a new building is necessary in Carmarthen. This is not just about money.

Transport has neither been planned nor been costed, just vague promises about ‘the voluntary sector.’ We heard this before they moved paediatrics and that voluntary input was very short-lived; why will this be any different?

Claims that ‘everyone’ is behind the new model do not bear scrutiny; I have spoken with representatives of every Pembrokeshire group supposedly supportive of the proposals but have only met with deep dismay; the only people in favour are in senior positions within Hywel Dda.

Once again, it would seem that we have Carmarthenbased ‘experts’ deciding that we will all be better off if facilities are centralised in Carmarthenshire.

This has been swept through in a bubble of enthusiasm, but I ask, ‘Where was the scrutiny?’ Independent board members are paid £13,000 pa to provide scrutiny, but their appointments are made by the Welsh Government, whose policies Hywel Dda implement and it is rare to hear robust challenge at board meetings.

The CHC try to take a ‘more consensual’ approach, but this seems to result in acquiescence, trying to make a model work, however flawed. I challenged the CEO of Hywel Dda over the level of opposition to the in-patient proposals and was told, ‘There will always be some who disagree.’ The problem is that from my enquiries, the balance is the other way and it is the people with whom I have spoken who will have to implement a model in which they have no confidence.

I like the idea of greater emphasis on community work and keeping people out of hospital, but this requires a higher staffing ratio, which is not mentioned in the documentation.

Far from ‘reducing the stigma of mental health,’ as claimed, our most vulnerable are now to be further stigmatised by being ostracised to Carmarthen (along with our mothers and children).

Judge a health board on how it treats its most vulnerable!

Given the pending consultation on clinical services, we should look at how the mental health plans have been imposed and be very concerned. We currently have a hospital that is well located for the needs of our county.

Reduction in provision at Withybush has had a devastating effect on recruitment in primary care. It is likely that the health board will once again try to persuade us that a costly new build (possibly in St Clears) will better serve our needs.

This would mean good access along dual carriageways from Carmarthen, while Pembrokeshire – which contributes far more to the Welsh economy – would have to struggle further along a poor infrastructure and our county would be further diminished.

Under Hywel Dda’s watch we have seen excellent local services dismantled and replaced, at huge financial cost, with a lesser service too far away to be accessible to the local population.

Our opinions were demeaned, belittled and overridden and now that they are beginning to admit that our concerns over Glangwili have been more than justified, they seek to punish us further by removing even more services from our county.


Ann’s Withybush Ground Force Volunteer