A WATCHDOG’S decision to support the move of intensive care neonatal services from North Wales was branded “utterly bewildering”.
The community health council yesterday approved health board plans to send an estimated 36 critically ill premature babies every year to Arrowe Park on the Wirral rather than care for them at Wrexham Maelor hospital or Glan Clwyd in Denbighshire.
In a statement, the CHC said: “(On Wednesday) the executive committee gave its support to some of the health board’s proposals to change health services in North Wales.
“It was agreed that the CHC supports the health board’s proposals for the provision of complex and longer-term neonatal intensive care services at Arrowe Park Hospital.”
The CHC’s approval of the Betsi Cadwaladr Health Board proposals was the last statutory requirement before the health changes go ahead.
A raft of other proposals were also approved, including plans to invest in primary and community services in towns across North Wales including in Mold, the provision of more care at home for vulnerable people and centralising specialist and emergency vascular surgical services.
However, the community health council said other aspects of the health board’s proposals required further consideration, such as the lack of capital investment for primary care buildings in Flint and other locations.
The CHC statement admitted the discussion covered difficult and emotive issues.
It said: “The views of many people and organisations were considered and the decisions made by the executive committee on behalf of the CHC were not taken lightly. Further information which the CHC received from the health board was also debated.
The statement went on: “We are continuing to work with the health board, through the local resolution stage, to seek clarification and assurance on these outstanding issues.”
A cross-party group of Assembly Members said the health watchdog’s decision was “utterly bewildering.”
Darren Millar, AM for Clwyd West, Ann Jones, AM for the Vale of Clwyd, and North Wales AMs Llyr Gruffydd and Aled Roberts issued a joint statement, saying: “Community health councils are supposed to be a voice for patients in the NHS, but we see little evidence that is the case.
“We believe that there is strong clinical evidence to support the retention of long-term neonatal care services within North Wales and we will continue to work with the British Medical Association, the Royal College of Nursing and the Royal College of Midwives to secure the future of these services in the region.”
Mr Hughes added he was “surprised and shocked” by the announcement that no proposals were referred to the health minister.
He said: “The community health council is supposed to be there to represent the views of the people of North Wales – it has failed to do that today.
“In my view, there were sufficient grounds for the health council to refer the planned downgrading of our neonatal services to the health minister and I am stunned that they haven’t done so.”
A health board spokeswoman said: “We wish to work with the CHC to seek local resolution wherever possible so we can all be sure we are acting in the best interests of the people of North Wales.”
The CHC has until March 1 to refer any outstanding issues to Lesley Griffiths, AM.