THE location of the new urgent care hospital to serve Pembrokeshire will be governed by its ability to sustain a consultant-led obstetrics department.

Hywel Dda University Health Board has previously only stated that the major facility will be built "somewhere between Narberth and St Clears".

But because of the need for 2,500 births a year to sustain the department, its position in west Wales may be further east than the Pembrokeshire public is hoping.

Speaking to the Western Telegraph at the board's first consultation event in Pembrokeshire on Friday, Dr Phil Kloer, executive medical director and director of clinical strategy, said that it was important that the new hospital "reflects the needs of the coastal Pembrokeshire population".

But he added: "It is also really important that wherever we are building the new hospital that we are confident that we can achieve 2,500 births. If we have less than that, it is highly likely that the next generation of doctors, registrars, the college and the Deanery would eventually close that unit some time in the future, with the resultant knock-on effect to other services."

"If we move it too far west we will inevitably have less than 2,500 births."

The West Wales General Hospital at Carmarthen, which now delivers consultant-led obstetric services to Pembrokeshire, currently has around 3,500 births each year.

Friday's consultation event at the Regency Hall, Saundersfoot saw around 100 people go through the doors with the opportunity to talk to health chiefs and staff - including consultants and ambulance personnel - about the controversial proposals that could fundamentally change the way in which healthcare is delivered across Pembrokeshire.

"The consultation events are giving us the opportunity to explain our proposals in quite a lot of detail and enable people to raise specific concerns," said Dr Kloer. "These are big changes, and it is very important that we are tested on these proposals by members of the local population.

"The more views we have, the better it will reflect the solution the public needs. It is vital that people feel able to express their views - by attending events, phoning, writing and corresponding.

"We are hearing some really strong concerns and some very good ideas.

The Hywel Dda health board's 'Big NHS change' consultation puts forward three options for the future of local services - all of which would see Withuybush Hospital lose its A& E department and a new hospital being built.

A petition opposing the changes has so far received around 22,000 signatures.

Futher consultation events have been arranged. Click here