Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board has come under fire from local community members and politicians following a series of controversial decisions.
The Health Board, which oversees health services in North Wales, including Bangor’s Gwynedd Hospital and Bodnant Medical Centre, has faced a troubled year, began courting controversy in November 2014. It was in this month that NHS Wales published a report showing that the Health Board was the worst in Wales for A&E waiting times, with over 20% of patients waiting for longer than the maximum target waiting time of four hours. Ysbyty Glan Clwyd, Bodelwydden, was the worst performing hospital in Wales, with a third of patients waiting more than four hours to be attended. The Health Board responded last month by asking local people to only attend A&E in “emergency cases.”
This controversy followed another, when the Welsh Government announced that it planned to intervene in the running of the Health Board, after BCUHB alerted the Assembly that its budget deficit was likely to reach £60 million by the end of March 2015.
The Health Board opened the new year with further controversy by introducing measures to decrease the budget deficit by cutting services across North Wales. The most controversial of these measures was the decision to scrap Doctor-led maternity care at Ysbyty Glan Clwyd for a period of at least 12 months. The controversial decision was announced at a routine meeting in Mold on February 10th, and will come into effect from April 6th.. The decision incensed the local community, who voiced their concerns to The Daily Post.
Marsha Davies spoke to The Daily Post about the proposed changes, saying: It’s absolutely disgraceful. It doesn’t even bear thinking about the dangers of what they are doing.
“I’m resuming the neonatal fight to save the maternity services and have set up a new page on Facebook ‘save our doctor-led maternity services North Wales’. I’m just trying to get all parents to put their stories on there of how they needed consultants.”
Davies’ Facebook page currently has over 15000 likes, and spawned a mass-protest, held in Rhyl, and a Daily Post petition.
The move also led to a response from the political establishment, with First Minister Carwyn Jones urging the Board to fully restore maternity services at all 3 major hospitals within the year, saying: “Let me be quite clear we expect those services to be restored within 12 months.”
Welsh Shadow Health Minister Darren Millar also stepped into the fray, saying: “These plans are unacceptable and need to be ditched.
“It will put lives of mothers and babies at risk and it’s essential that we have doctor-led care at Ysbyty Glan Clwyd.
“It’s not just the politicians who are calling for these services to be maintained, it’s the frontline health workers like midwives and consultants and they should not be ignored.
“Instead of suspending doctor-led care, the health board should be working hard to recruit the doctors needed to sustain the service.”
Meanwhile, U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron, speaking to the The Daily Post, said that he had no intention of intervening in the Health Board crisis, answering when asked, simply, “no.” He added: “I think the decision to cut the NHS which was Labour’s decision in Cardiff was the wrong decision.”
His refusal to intervene follows a call from Welsh Tory MP David Jones, who called for a Westminster intervention.
BCUHB has courted further controversy since its shock maternity announcement. They have also announced that they are considering to cut emergency surgery from 1 of North Wales’ 3 hospitals.
Welsh Liberal Democrat AM Aled Roberts commented on the further changes, saying: “There seems to a pattern developing whereby Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board decide to drip feed proposals which establish centres of excellence in each of our three hospitals.
“That means every hospital is going to lose major services, as in the case of maternity, and that patients will have to travel long distances.”
Darren Millar AM added his voice to the critics of the new proposals, saying: ““As people across North Wales take a stand against downgrades to consultant-led maternity services, this is a clear sign there is yet more upheaval and downgrading of services to come.
“I urge the Welsh Labour Government to reverse their damaging NHS cuts and take action to ensure health boards maintain and invest in emergency surgery services at all district general hospitals.”
BCUHB have yet to respond to Roberts’ and Millar’s criticism.