'Last roll of the dice' as watchdog refers controversial health plans to Welsh Government

First published in Milford Mercury news

Controversial healthcare plans that would see the closure of the Special Care Baby Unit at Withybush Hospital have been referred to the health minister by patient watchdog Hywel Dda Community Health Council (CHC).

Hywel Dda Health Board announced plans in January, following a long consultation period, that would see the SCBU and minor injury units in the south of the county closed.

A 25-page document has been sent to health minister Lesley Griffiths detailing the issues that the CHC and many members of the public, who have campaigned vociferously, have highlighted.

The decision to approve Hywel Dda's plans or not will now by taken by ministers in Cardiff.

The CHC had already raised concerns about the plans, particularly with regards to Pembrokeshire, saying the county would be "severely disadvantaged" if compromises were not made by the health board.

CHC chief officer Ashley Warlow said the decision to refer to the minster was taken after members had "worked long and hard but sadly failed to reach an agreement or compromises with the health board".

The main areas of concern identified by the CHC are the "flawed consultation process", the analysis of consultation data, the closure of Tenby and Pembroke Dock minor injury units without agreement from anyone to take over the service and the closure of Haverfordwest's SCBU.

Mr Warlow said: "This is the last roll of the dice" and it was hoped that the minister would deem it necessary to call in an independent group to look at the issues."

Mr Wales said although there are positive negotiations ongoing with a large surgery in Pembroke Dock to provide provision it was not yet finalised and plans for Tenby were not in place.

"We have done our part and obviously due diligence has been applied to this, many hundreds of hours by our members examining thousands of pages. It is no longer in our hands but hopefully we will still play a part in giving any evidence to the independent panel.

"It was not an easy decision to come to but it was felt in the interests of health service users, particularly in Pembrokeshire, it was the right decision to come to," added Mr Wales.

Mr Warlow added: "I would like to thank the chairman and my members, who are all volunteers, for the hundreds of hours they have devoted to this exercise and also the many other stake holders, the public and NHS staff who have spoken to us during the process."

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