WREXHAM will miss out on being the site for a major new baby care facility after a Welsh Government decision to locate it in Denbighshire.
In an announcement yesterday First Minister Carwyn Jones revealed the new Sub Regional Neonatal Intensive Care Centre (SuRNICC) for North Wales will be located at Ysbyty Glan Clwyd in Bodelwyddan.
Wrexham Maelor Hospital had also been in the running.
Currently both Ysbyty Glan Clwyd and Wrexham Maelor provide specialist neonatal level 3 care.
Mr Jones’ announcement means care for those being treated in North Wales will be centralised at Glan Clwyd. Some babies needing the highest care level – estimated at about babies 36 each year – will need to go to Arrowe Park Hospital on the Wirral, as originally envisaged by Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board (BCUHB).
A review in to neonatal healthcare in North Wales was commissioned after BCUHB announced it would move Glan Clwyd's neonatal intensive care services to Arrowe Park, on the Wirral.
An independent panel, chaired by former NHS executive Sonia Mills and with the involvement of the Royal College of Paediatrics, recommended the new facility – which will centralise intensive care services for premature babies in North Wales – go to Glan Clwyd instead of Wrexham Maelor.
The panel decided although the two hospitals ranked highly, with “little to choose” between them, Glan Clwyd was the better option in terms of access for people in deprived communities and access for people in North West Wales.
Higher levels of babies born at low weights in Denbighshire also contributed to the conclusion.
In a statement, the First Minister said he accepted the panel’s recommendation. He said he expected there to be “disappointment for some” about the decision, but added the panel’s advice had been “robust and well balanced” and in the best interests of families in North Wales.
After yesterday’s announcement, Wrexham Assembly Member Lesley Griffiths said: “While it is unfortunate Wrexham Maelor Hospital has not been chosen as the preferred site, once the decision to create a centralised facility had been made, geographical constraints meant it was always going to be difficult to justify Wrexham as the ideal location.
“I strongly believe the decision to create a Sub Regional Intensive Care Centre will deliver a long term, safe and sustainable service which ensures best possible standards for mothers and babies across North Wales as a whole.
“The centralised location and specialist centre can help attract expertise to the region and will help maintain the safe, secure and excellent delivery of neonatal services across North Wales.”
Brian Valentine, a member of Cherish, which supports the special care baby unit at Maelor, said the group was “gutted” by the minister's decision.
He said: “I do think the facilities in, and the transport links to, Wrexham still outweigh Glan Clwyd and its the community I feel for – it has used the unit quite extensively.
“But the decision is a lot better than everything going to Liverpool, which would have been worse.”
Dr Peter Higson, chairman of the health board, said the move would allow the board to “deliver excellent care that meets the needs of families and babies across the whole of North Wales.”
Aled Roberts, Welsh Lib Dem Assembly Member for North Wales, said: “Naming the location is one thing, but people in North Wales need assurances regarding both the staffing levels and the timeline for implementation.
“Sadly, Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board has historically failed to provide proper staffing levels within neo-natal units. Such failings can’t be allowed to continue.”
North Wales Tory AM Antoinette Sandbach has welcomed the decision.