A PATIENT watchdog has warned Hywel Dda Health Board to make sure temporary boundary changes do not become “permanent by default”.

Last summer, it was announced that patients from Tenby, Saundersfoot, Narberth, Kilgetty and Cardigan would have to travel to Glangwili hospital in Carmarthen for unscheduled and emergency appointments, due to a lack of staff at Withybush.

At a recent meeting of the health board’s Community Health Council (CHC), chief officer Alyson Thomas reminded Pembrokeshire county director Sue Lewis that an initial target of December had been set to return these beds to Pembrokeshire, which had now been missed.

Ms Thomas said she recognised patients were not being adversely affected by the changes, but said she was concerned there had been a “drift” in dates.

Mrs Lewis said the health board was still working towards re-opening the closed beds by the end of January although it did not look likely that all services would be restored by then.

Where staffing was sufficient to guarantee safety, beds had been re-opened, but she said there were still issues around medical staff in medicine and Accident and Emergency (A&E).

Mrs Lewis said most of the overseas doctors who had recently joined the workforce had been inducted and were already working alongside medical teams.

She added that further overseas recruitment could also be a possible solution if local recruitment continued to be a problem.

Asked on the current nursing staff situation, Mrs Lewis said the health board had been proactive in trying to recruit, with a number of newly qualified nurses recruited, but it would take time to get them into the system.

She said a mixture of doctors and nurses were still needed, and the health board was still relying heavily on locum doctors and agency nurses, which while a vital part of meeting staffing needs, was not ideal.

She re-iterated that staffing problems were also being experienced by all health boards, not just Hywel Dda.