Hands off warning over plans for maternity service shake-up

Reporter:

Matt Jones

CAMPAIGNERS have warned health chiefs they are ready to take up the fight ahead of a maternity services shake-up.

Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board has circulated a public questionnaire asking for people’s views on services.

They say changes need to be made but stress no service changes have yet been proposed.

It comes after health chiefs decided last year to take more time on a consultation on three options which included retaining maternity services at Wrexham Maelor, Ysbyty Glan Clwyd and Ysbyty Gwynedd; establishing a two-site model at either Ysbyty Glan Clwyd and Ysbyty Gwynedd, or at Ysbyty Gwynedd and the Maelor.

The proposals sparked a huge public backlash, led by Wrexham mothers Clare Brown and Ruth Drake, who organised a petition calling for all the services to be left as they are.

They have now vowed to fight every step of the way if services at the Maelor come under threat.

Clare became involved in the battle last year after her daughter, Lauren, was treated there before her death at the age of eight last year.

She said: “As campaigners we will play our full part in the latest public consultation exercise.

“We have still got a petition calling for services at the Maelor to be retained on which we have over 6,000 signatures and, if necessary, this will be handed in to the Welsh Government.

“Children’s facilities are important to people over a huge catchment area and must not be lost.”

Brian and Nicola Valentine, from Salisbury Street, Shotton, joined the fight after the birth of their son Dylan, two.

Dylan spent two months in the hospital’s special baby unit after being born three months premature.

Brian, 36, said: “Going from a normal pregnancy to the situation we had in such a short time, to have that service on the doorstep was a life-saver. Nicola or Dylan would not have survived without it.

“We are going to campaign as vigorously as we were before, if not more so, because in the next 12 months they will be making a decision.

“It is such a fantastic facility. We are going to do what we can to keep the services at the Maelor.

“All three hospitals have something going for them, it is a difficult decision.”

Apart from being left deaf by the ordeal, Dylan is now a normal, happy baby.

Co-campaigner Ruth Drake, whose three-year-old daughter Elin is severely disabled and still receiving treatment at the Maelor's children's unit, said: “A lot of people are getting worried about this and we are ready to take up the fight again should it be necessary.

“These vital services need to stay at Wrexham.”

A spokeswoman for the health board said: “The first stage of review concludes that the way services are planned and delivered needs change.

“The next stage is to share the findings with staff, partner organisations and patients to talk about how we can improve the quality and standard of care.

“Over the coming weeks meetings have been planned for staff, patients and partner organisations to talk about what works well and what needs to improve.

“It is important to say that no service changes have been proposed to the project board.

“Maternal health is not as good as it should be and this needs to change through good public health and lifestyle changes. There are more births each year and we want to be able to care for more of the sickest babies in North Wales.

“Some maternity care is quite complex and difficult.

“The next step will be to put together a range of proposals. Staff, GPs, local authorities, voluntary groups and patients will be involved in developing these ideas.”

The outcome of this work will be presented to the BCUHB board in October and if significant service changes are proposed, the health board will discuss with the community health council about public consultation before reaching a final decision.

Pat Billingham, chief officer of Betsi Cadwaladr Community Health Council, said: “We are still gathering the views of people. When the decision comes we will have to decide what level of consultation is needed or if any consultation is needed. It depends on the work of the road shows, reviews and what the final case is and we will look at it then.”

See full story in the Leader

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