THE Community Health Council for North Wales has thrown its weight behind a controversial hospital consultation, but has “concerns”.
The CHC has responded to the plans set out as part of the Betsi Cadwaladr Health Board consultation which could lead to sweeping changes in NHS care in Wrexham and Flintshire.
Among the changes proposed are the closure of Flint Hospital, the removal of X-ray services in Mold and the relocation of long-term intensive neonatal care from Wrexham Maelor to Arrowe Park Hospital, Wirral.
CHC chief officer, Pat Billingham, said: “Our letter says that we believe that several of the board’s proposals will be in the interest of people who use services, and the health service. These are the proposals for moving services from hospitals to closer to where people live and neonatal intensive care services.”
This means the health watchdog approves of plans to relocate long-term intensive neonatal care from Wrexham Maelor and Ysbyty Glan Clwyd in St Asaph to Arrowe Park, Wirral, a proposal that has met with widespread criticism.
The CHC response stated: “The CHC’s response to the health board’s consultation made it clear that we support its plans for inpatient and outpatient services in Flint.”
The proposals mean Flint hospital may be closed, in favour of a £100,000 primary care centre, but the CHC had “concerns” about how this would be implemented.
The CHC’s chair, Christine Evans, clarified: “CHC members are still worried about some aspects of the proposals.
“These include a timetable which may see some inpatient services closed before the enhanced care service has been introduced; other services removed from hospitals before there are firm plans for developing new facilities to house these services and could lead to much poorer access for people in rural communities.
“When the health board meets on January 18 it will have all the information it needs: what the public thinks about its proposals, what we think about them and – we understand – details of the financial and staffing implications of the proposals.
"We will be there to hear, first hand, what it decides to do. And then we can consider whether we need to raise any formal objections.”
The CHC believed some proposals should be modified, such as plans for community hospital services, including some minor injury and X-ray services, the complex vascular surgery service and older people’s mental health services.
X-ray services at Mold community hospital are among those that could be axed. The CHC also said the health board’s response to questions about transport services was “disappointing”.
The health council said: “It makes much of a one-day survey of outpatients and comes up with the completely predictable result that most people going to the clinic used private transport.
“The information the board needs is from people who were not there – who do not have easy access to private transport and for whom public transport is not an option."
A Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board spokesman said they received and acknowledged the Community Health Council in North Wales’ supplementary response to the proposals for changes to healthcare services.
He said: “We welcome the CHC’s support for some aspects of the consultation proposals and note fully the points they have raised for further discussion.
"We recognise that further assurances will be required for the CHC to confirm this support.
“The health board will address the CHC’s input, along with all the feedback from the consultation at the meeting on Friday when considering recommendations for the future of Health Care in North Wales.”
A meeting to discuss the findings of the consultation will take place on Friday.
CAMPAIGNERS fear residents in Flint could be left abandoned if the town loses its hospital.
At a meeting of the Save Flint Hospital campaign on Monday night, committee secretary Mike Evans claimed if Flint Hospital closed down the alternative health provision proposals being put forward would not work.
“People could be abandoned. There is no logic to it,” said Mr Evans.
“The plans are not realistic. There is no common sense and we have to be optimistic. The health board is doing the wrong thing.”
The Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board is expected to reveal the future of Flint Hospital on Friday.
Under proposals which have been under consultation, the facility could close as part of a controversial shake-up of North Wales’ health services.
To fight the proposals the Save Flint Hospital committee has been campaigning and at the meting at Flint Town Hall they arranged to travel to St Asaph to attend the health board meeting.
Speaking before Monday’s meeting, committee treasurer Lynn Knight said they wanted to show the strength of opposition to the health board’s plans.
She stressed people of the town and surrounding communities were strongly in favour of retaining the hospital. There had been a petition organised which had attracted more than 7,000 signatures of support.
“I dread to think what it would be like if the proposals go ahead,” said Ms Knight.
“This is not a campaign about sentiment, the town needs the hospital to remain open. There are very strong feelings on this issue.”
Ms Knight said the committee had been given excellent support from a number of groups and individuals, including Flint Town Council, Flintshire Council and MP David Hanson.
The committee is hoping as many people as possible from Flint attend Friday’s meeting.