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Written Statement - Arrangements for the future development of specialised neonatal services in North Wales

The Rt Hon Carwyn Jones AM, First Minister of Wales

Assembly Members, understandably there is overwhelming public interest in the future of neonatal services in North Wales. Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board (BCUHB) has determined, following due process, to transfer some of these services to Arrowe Park in England as a means of improving compliance with British Association for Perinatal Medicine (BAPM) standards of the services provided.

It is entirely appropriate that BCUHB continues to put in place these plans to provide services compliant with these standards for babies in North Wales.  This includes the use of Arrowe Park where necessary. 

I do however want further independent advice on whether there is another model where we can be self sufficient in North Wales in this particular important and pivotal service, within the resources available, in the longer term.  I have therefore decided to put in place arrangements to advise me on the future possibilities for the development of specialised neonatal services in North Wales. The terms of reference will include the feasibility of providing a neonatal intensive care service located within North Wales. I wish it to also look at the interdependencies with other acute services, travel distances and ensuring BCUHB maintains and builds clinical expertise.  

My officials will now be working to clarify the timescales involved, including tying this in with the BCUHB acute services review.  They will work with BCUHB to put in place the necessary practical arrangements and I will update you in due course.  The public will rightly expect all of us to work together on all actions, short, medium and long term, to put in place safe and sustainable services.  It is important BCUHB continue with this work and my decision should in no way be taken as a criticism of their actions.  We all know health services have to change in Wales and in this particular instance I am asking for advice on whether there may be an opportunity in the future to provide these neonatal services within North Wales.

We all recognise change in the NHS has to happen and it raises difficult and challenging issues for all of us.  This is particularly so when vulnerable babies are involved.  All of us share the common desire to do what is best now and into the future. I will update you further on the details of the work and its timescales once these are finalised.