Emergency services hanging in the balance
It is a worrying time for the NHS in North Wales with the future of emergency services in our North Wales hospitals is hanging in the balance.
Next month, the Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board will announce its proposals for emergency services across the region and it is by no means clear as to whether each of our three hospitals will escape from the downgrading proposed in other parts of Wales.
The Board has thus far failed to provide any assurances over the future of emergency surgery services at Ysbyty Glan Clwyd - a hospital which not only provides services to residents in Conwy and Denbighshire, but also to the tens of thousands of visitors who visit the area each year.
The Board will publish its proposals just weeks after the First Minister and his cabinet gave the green light to a strategy for the Welsh NHS, which includes the downgrading of accident and emergency services and reductions in the number of hospital sites providing 24/7 consultant-led emergency departments.
The research presented by the Health Minister to persuade her cabinet colleagues portrayed Wales as the sick man of Britain, and the NHS on the brink of catastrophic collapse due to a combination of record breaking cuts, increased demand on services and recruitment problems.
There is certainly no doubt that health boards are having to make increasingly difficult decisions over their service provision. Wales already suffers from comparatively poor health outcomes and has an ageing population. All of which are putting increasing pressure on the NHS’ ability to perform.
It is true to say that there is scope for some NHS services to be consolidated at specialist centres and for more healthcare to be delivered in a community setting, but the issue of moving emergency care facilities further away from the populations they serve is certain to lead to a great deal of passionate debate and protest.
Whilst the Welsh public may be willing to travel further for elective treatment, planned in advance at specialist centres, the same is not true in cases of life or death. People do not want to and should not have to travel further for life saving care where every minute in transit to a hospital can make a difference to a patient's outcome.
The Welsh Ambulance Service is already stretched and the Wales Air Ambulance, which provides extremely fast emergency service across difficult terrain, is struggling to raise sufficient money to update its helicopters.
When it comes to the future of our emergency departments I for one will not tolerate downgrading of services at any of our district general hospitals - local NHS services should be available for local people.