Government denies plans to downgrade hospital

Llanelli hospital protest, downgrading, Prince Philip Hospital
Protesters outside the Senedd today Photo: ITV News Wales

Lesley Griffiths AM says that all Local Health Boards are currently drafting proposals for the future of services to ensure the Welsh NHS meets a number of challenges, from an ageing population to a UK-wide problem with recruitment.

I want to reassure those concerned that neither I, nor Hywel Dda Local Health Board, have any plans to downgrade or close any district general hospitals, Prince Philip included. In regular meetings with the Chair of Hywel Dda Health Board, I have been reassured that plans are very much focused on upgrading, rather than downgrading services across Hywel Dda including Prince Philip.

– Lesley Griffiths AM, Health Minister

More than two hundred protesters are due at the Senedd this morning to hand in a petition opposing plans to downgrade hospital services in Llanelli. More than 8,200 people have signed the petition which calls on all services to be retained at the Prince Philip Hospital. The campaigners are also asking the Health Minister to review her plans to cut the overall budget given to the Hywel Dda Health Board.

Local politicians are due to address the crowd along with a retired surgeon who says he's concerned about the effect any changes to services at the Prince Philip Hospital could have on patient care.

It is one of a number of protests that have been held against plans to centralise some services in mid and west Wales. Last week hundreds of people from Aberystwyth protested at the Senedd against plans that could see the town's Bronglais Hospital downgraded as the Hywel Dda Health Board looks to centralise some out of hours and specialist services. Several senior hospital staff expressed concern that colorectal surgery could be relocated more than an hour's drive away to West Wales General Hospital in Carmarthen. They say should such changes take place it would have profound implications on people living in parts of north and west Wales. As well as a lack of specialist surgeons in Aberystwyth to deal with life-threatening emergencies, such as a ruptured spleen or burst appendix, protesters say it could also have major implications for the hospital's A&E department. The hospital serves Ceredigion, parts of Powys and south Gwynedd, and it is the only district general hospital in mid Wales.

The Health Board tells me there are no plans for significant change to Prince Philip and I am pleased to hear there are options currently being considered to enhance the role of the Breast Care Unit and Elective Orthopaedic services, and to provide a new Specialised Rehab Centre of Excellence. Hywel Dda Health Board is in the process of engaging with staff and the local population to produce proposals for service change, which will be put forward in the next few months for thorough public consultation.

– Lesley Griffiths AM, Health Minister