Health Minister orders watchdog and Local Health Board to talk again over controversial NHS changes
Controversial plans for future healthcare in Pembrokeshire have been sent back by the Health Minister to the Local Health Board and Community Health Council for further discussions.
Hywel Dda Health Board' s plans for health provision across Ceredigion, Carmarthenshire and Pembrokeshire included the closure of minor injury units in Tenby and Pembroke Dock and the Special Care Baby Unit at Withybush Hospital.
These were strongly objected to by members of the public and the CHC deemed it necessary to refer the plans to health minister Lesley Grifiiths, concerned that Pembrokeshire would be 'severely disadvantaged' if compromises to the plans were not made.
It had been hoped that an independent group would have been set up by Mrs Griffiths to examine the Your Health, Your Future proposals and the CHC's 25-page objection document.
But, in a letter to CHC chairman Tony Wales - received minutes before today's (Thursday) CHC meeting in Haverfordwest - Mrs Griffiths asks the organisation to resume its dialogue with the health board as a 'matter of urgency'.
She adds that this is 'in order to make clear which of the service change proposals the council can support and which it judges should be referred to me for determination'.
"It is imperative the health board's service change plans are resolved to ensure local services are placed on a safe and sustainable footing," she adds.
Officials considering the CHC submission had said there were 'several inconsistencies' between the case made and the National Guidance for Engagement and Consultation of Changes to Health Services.
"The guidance makes clear, LHBs and CHCs must work together to ensure safe and sustainable services are provided across the whole of their area.
"The CHC is obliged to recognise maintaining the status quo may not be an acceptable response and must work with the LHB to agree how such services can be maintained within available resources.
"Local resolution must be sought wherever possible and referral to Welsh Ministers should only be made as a last resort," states Mrs Griffiths.
She also adds that 'alternative solutions' must be proposed where particular proposals are not judged to be in the best interest of health services.
The CHC and Hywel Dda have until April 5th to reassess and discuss the proposals, with alternatives suggested where necessary, and are required to provide a weekly progress report through officials.
* In a Welsh Government reshuffle held shortly after this article was posted, Lesley Griffiths was moved from the position of health minister to the minister for local government. Mark Drakeford AM takes over the health portfolio.