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Written Statement - Changes to Health Services in North Wales

Mark Drakeford, Minister for Health and Social Services

When I was appointed as Minster for Health and Services earlier this year, I indicated that my three key priorities were unscheduled care, the legislative programme and bringing the three regional plans for service change in NHS Wales to a conclusion.  I am pleased to announce that the first of the service change plans, for North Wales, has now been concluded successfully.

In January 2013, following extensive periods of engagement and formal public consultation, Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board published its final proposals for changes to healthcare services in North Wales: Healthcare in North Wales is Changing.

In accordance with the Guidance for Engagement and Consultation on Changes to Health Services, Betsi Cadwaladr Community Health Council (CHC) had a period of six weeks to refer to Welsh Ministers any proposals that it considered were not in the best interests of the Health Service in the area.

On 4 March the CHC referred elements of the Health Board’s proposals to the former Minister for Health and Social Services for determination.  The proposals referred related to:

  • minor injury services in South Gwynedd;
  • the removal of X-Ray services from Tywyn Hospital;
  • older people’s mental health service for people living in Gwynedd.

I subsequently confirmed I would make final decisions on these matters once I was satisfied that I had all relevant information, having considered the issues thoroughly and carefully.

As part of this process, my officials met separately with members of both the CHC and Health Board on 11 June.  Following these meetings, both parties believed there to be a way forward to resolve the matters that the CHC had referred to me for determination.

I am very pleased to report that I have now received a joint letter from the CHC and Health Board which confirms agreement has been reached on the outstanding issues.  

Minor Injuries Service in South Gwynedd
The CHC has agreed that the revised hours for the Minor Injury Service in Tywyn Hospital should continue, although the demand for the service will be monitored and reviewed over a longer period.  Any amendments to the service which may subsequently be needed will be discussed through the Service Planning Committee. In monitoring the revised hours of the service, the Health Board will need to have plans for implementing and communicating its proposals so that people can be confident they will get the minor injuries services they need from GP surgeries, the out of hours service and their community hospitals.

X-Ray service
Agreement has been reached to continue the X-Ray service at Tywyn Hospital for two sessions a week.  To meet the difficulties the Health Board faces in staffing the service, it will explore with neighbouring Health Boards the potential for the service to be staffed by their radiology teams, rather than its own staff.

Older People’s Mental Health Services in Gwynedd
The CHC has agreed that the Service Planning Committee will monitor the action plan which has been developed to establish alternative services in the community, to mitigate the impact of the closure of beds at Uned Hafan (Pwllheli) and Uned Meirion (Dolgellau).  This will provide the necessary assurances that the plans are being delivered and people’s needs are being met. An update on progress, which will be shared with the local community, will also be produced following each milestone report to the Service Planning Committee.

Conclusion
Alongside the elements formally referred by the CHC to the Minister, was the recurrent theme of a lack of transport provision to access health services in the rural areas of North Wales and in south Gwynedd in particular. The Welsh Government has agreed to work with partners across the public service to better understand the local transport access issues and identify joint opportunities for improvement.

The CHC is now content, subject to the outcome of the agreed monitoring and review processes it has highlighted being satisfactory, that it has reached a local resolution to the elements of the Health Board’s proposals which it had previously referred to Welsh Ministers for determination.

I would like to place on record my personal thanks to all Health Board and CHC officials and members involved in drawing this matter to a conclusion.