A TEMPORARY service change to treat seriously unwell children in the south of the Hywel Dda area at Glangwili Hospital, Carmarthen, will continue, the Health Board has confirmed.

In spring 2020, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the Health Board moved the children’s daytime unit – called a Paediatric Ambulatory Care Unit or Puffin Ward locally – and its specialist staff at Withybush Hospital, to Glangwili.

This temporary measure means children under 16 with serious illnesses or injuries have been treated at Glangwili Hospital, where there is a co-located Emergency Department and children’s hospital services and specialist staff.

The hospital includes an overnight children’s ward, children’s high dependency unit and children’s daytime (ambulatory) care.

Clinical Director for Women & Children’s services, Dr Prem Kumar Pitchaikani said: “We need to avoid the delay that may be caused when a child is brought to Withybush Emergency Department only to need a transfer to Glangwili Hospital.

"The continuation of this temporary service change, will ensure that very ill children, including the increasing number of children likely to have respiratory viruses this winter, will get access to their definitive treatment more quickly.

"They can also be monitored and treated quickly by specialists in the event that they deteriorate.”

Withybush still only treats children with minor injuries such as minor wounds, minor burns or scalds, or insect bites,.

It also treats potential broken bones if not badly misshaped, minor head or face injuries, or foreign bodies in the nose or ear; as well as booked outpatient appointments.

As part of the change, and in anticipation of more children becoming unwell from respiratory viruses this autumn and winter, the Health Board has invested in more equipment and high dependency beds at Glangwili Hospital to support any increase in children needing treatment.

Multi-professional clinicians, including local senior doctors in children’s care (paediatrics), emergency medicine, and anaesthetics, have supported the recommendation.

They also support the need for clearer messaging to the public in order to reduce the risk of delays in the treatment of children and young people.

Clinical Director for Emergency Medicine, and senior consultant at Withybush Hospital Emergency and Urgent Care Centre Dr Nicola Drake said: “It is critically important that sick children have the support of specialist paediatricians at the earliest opportunity.

"They also need early access to specialised equipment that is provided and monitored by paediatricians.”

These changes affect children’s services at Withybush Hospital only and adult services at the hospital remain the same.

Paediatric services at Bronglais Hospital, Aberystwyth, remain the same, and there is no change to Prince Philip Hospital, Llanelli.

Deputy Chief Executive and Medical Director Dr Phil Kloer said: “It is important for us to reassure people that this is not a proposal to make a further change, beyond extending that which was put in place during March 2020 as a result of the pandemic.

"However, it is in everyone’s interests that we are really clear about how parents and carers of children, and young people, can access the appropriate health care support when they need it.

"We hope our communications campaign will avoid parents and carers bringing unwell children to Withybush Hospital, only to be delayed and diverted to Glangwili Hospital.

“Our intention is to continue with this temporary position and commence a review starting in March 2022 and a report back to Health Board in autumn 2022.

"We will work closely with Hywel Dda Community Health Council to ensure the review has the appropriate scrutiny and that we measure outcomes for children and young people, as well as patient experiences, and the views of our communities.”

The dedicated ambulance vehicle that has been supporting transfers of children, babies, labouring mothers and gynaecology patients, will remain to support the transfer of patients from Withybush Hospital to Glangwili Hospital, and also to support paediatric 999 calls from the community.

There is also transport and welfare support for families who may be unable to travel themselves for medical reasons, or for those eligible for support with costs.

The health board advises that one parent/carer can stay with a child admitted to hospital at all times. Where there is a need, you can ask the ward sister for support with accommodation.

If you have difficulty returning home after your child has been admitted to hospital, you can speak to a member of staff. Ward sisters and hospital site managers can arrange payment for a contracted taxi in the circumstance of no alternative transport.