Hywel Dda Health Board has announced that histopathology services will be centralised in Carmarthen.

It said it is set to create a safer and sustainable pathology service for patients following recommendations made by the Royal College of Pathologists.

The expert body recommended that histopathology services within the Hywel Dda Health Board area should be re-organised into fewer, larger departments. This is in keeping with the Welsh Government document ‘The Future Delivery of Pathology Services in Wales’, a spokesman said.

Concerns had been raised about the move being made permanent following the removal of post-mortem and histopathology services from Withybush Hospital in 2010.

Long term plans to remove the service were outlined in a leaked document later that year.

A review was to be carried out in March 2011 following the appointment of two new consultants.

The Health Board states that patients will not see a physical change in service, but behind-the scenes work and autopsies will be organised from Carmarthenshire.

Facilities to view and store the deceased will remain at each of the four hospitals (Bronglais, Glangwili, Prince Philip and Withybush).

"This arrangement will ensure a safer and sustainable service in which all consultants will work together, rather than in isolation; improve the quality of the service; reduce risk, variation, duplication and waste; and improve recruitment and retention of staff. All staff members affected have been fully consulted and there will be no loss of jobs," said a spokesman.

Following this consultation with staff, a phased approach is proposed. The first phase will commence in the coming months and will involve the transfer of the histopathology service from Withybush General Hospital to Carmarthenshire. Bronglais General Hospital work is already being carried out within Carmarthenshire.

Associate Medical Director for Pathology Dr John Murphy said: "This operational change will allow us to offer an improved clinical service to our patients. It will provide an opportunity for Consultants to work together in line with Royal College of Pathologists recommendations and provide an opportunity for Consultants to share expertise and easily obtain second opinions from colleagues."

Director of Planning, Performance and Delivery Tony Chambers added: "Patients will see no change as this is very much a ‘behind the scenes’ service and there should be no delay for either consultants at other hospital sites or patients receiving results. We are extremely sensitive to the needs of bereaved families, and therefore facilities to view and store the deceased will remain at each of our four hospitals."

The Health Board is now in the process of discussing the change in detail with the eleven staff directly affected by phase one. Briefings are also being sent to key stakeholders.