‘IT IS simply no good having improved services in Carmarthen if people can’t access them’ says Preseli Pembrokeshire MP Stephen Crabb as he calls on the Health Minister to reconsider ‘reckless cuts’ to health services.
Mr Crabb said Mark Drakeford must ‘take responsibility for the real danger he is posing on Pembrokeshire’.
His statement comes following a meeting with the head of the scrutiny panel which approved the decision to downgrade maternity services at Withybush Hospital. Mr Drakeford had refused to meet with Mr Crabb so he met Professor Neena Modi and challenged her on the evidence used to axe consultant-led maternity care and the Special Care Baby Unit (SCBU) at Withybush Hospital.
He asked ‘how it could be safe to move vital maternity services to Carmarthen, when Pembrokeshire’s rural geography can make it difficult to reach even the local hospital at the best of times?’ A spokesman for Mr Crabb said Professor Modi, who works at London’s Chelsea and Westminster hospital, avoided the issue, stating instead that Pembrokeshire people should be pleased that there will be improved services at Carmarthen.
When pressed about specific transport problems, such as the frequent closures to the A40, the Professor insisted that she had advised Mark Drakeford only to go ahead with the cuts if there was an appropriate ‘safety net’ of transport links in place. A Welsh Government official, who was also present at the meeting, was not able to confirm that these safety nets were in place despite admitting that the closures would begin to take effect in just two months’ time.
Mr Crabb will now write to Mr Drakeford for a second time, to challenge him on why the downgrade is going ahead without the required safety nets being in place.
Mr Crabb said: “I am now more concerned than ever that the Welsh Government’s decision to axe maternity services from Withybush did not take into account the very serious geographic challenges that will make it difficult to reach Glangwili Hospital in an emergency. Professor Modi talked about the benefits of having a better unit at Glangwili, but it is simply no good having improved services in Camarthen if people can’t access them.
“The A40 has been closed at least five times already this year but no-one at the meeting was able to tell me how patients would be transferred if the road was closed. Combine this with the fact that Welsh Labour have missed their ambulance response time targets for 21 out of the last 22 months and it makes for a very worrying prospect indeed.
“I told the Professor about the countless personal stories I have received from constituents who would have lost loved-ones if it wasn’t for the maternity services at Withybush. Her response that, ‘anecdote is a poor way to make policy’, is exactly what we have come to expect on questions about Withybush. It is no wonder why Pembrokeshire people don’t feel they are being heard. “I am gobsmacked that these proposals are going ahead without the recommended safety nets in place. Perhaps the Welsh Labour Government think the recent reports that over 50% of people don’t realise they are in charge of the NHS in Wales is an excuse to sit on their hands. I am writing again to the Welsh Health Minister, Mark Drakeford AM, to urge him to reconsider these reckless cuts and take responsibility for the real danger he is posing on Pembrokeshire.”