Welsh Health Minister Professor Mark Drakeford has announced that Hywel Dda has achieved the status of University Local Health Board.

During a visit to the region on Thursday, the Minister confirmed the health board has demonstrated its close work with Bangor, Cardiff, Swansea, Swansea Metropolitan and Aberystwyth Universities and University of Wales Trinity St David across a wide range of subjects including education, research and development.

The relationships are mutually fruitful and often innovative and provide significant benefits to healthcare, education and research, they said.

Mr Drakeford said: “The change in name reflects a real commitment to excellence in terms of partnership with higher education, the quality of services provided and overall performance.”

Hywel Dda University Health Board Chief Executive Professor Trevor Purt said: “Hywel Dda has made significant progress over the last 12 months with the establishment of an Innovation Board to direct research activities and the appointment of a Chair of Rural Health. This has senior University membership and will help find solutions to the challenges in relation to rural health that will potentially have worldwide influence.

“We already have a positive reputation for research and we have attracted significant funding to support this work. To demonstrate our commitment to research and to help attract high quality candidates to posts we recently opened a Research Department and Laboratory within Prince Philip Hospital to ensure that our facilities match our ambitions.

“These developments show how we intend to take forward our links in the future and show our commitment to nurturing and maintaining the already strong links we have with local Universities.”

A review of the health board’s status will be undertaken every three years, starting in 2016, to ensure the criteria continues to be met and there is clear evidence of continual improvement in the quality of care being provided and patient outcomes, through their partnership working with the Universities.

“I am delighted that Hywel Dda Health Board has been successful in its application for University Health Board Status” said Professor Medwin Hughes, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Wales Trinity Saint David (UWTSD). “The University already works closely with Hywel Dda in developing innovative, evidence based and sustainable responses to the challenges of delivering an effective rural health system. As a multi-level education provider the UWTSD Group can offer the opportunity to develop jointly a unified accredited programme of training and career enhancement opportunities through further and higher education for those in the health and social care sectors in the region”.

Professor Kate Bullen, Director of the Institute of Human Sciences at Aberystwyth University said, “I am extremely pleased that Aberystwyth University has been able to been able to contribute to the successful attainment of University Health Board status by Hywel Dda Health Board. Aberystwyth has developed a range of significant and important innovative projects with Hywel Dda since we signed our Memorandum of Understanding two years ago. "I am confident that these initiatives in the areas of research, service and work force development, and public engagement will continue to benefit both organisations in the future.”