HYWEL Dda University Health Board has assured the public that there are no plans to further change or downgrade children’s services at Withybush Hospital at present.

MP Simon Hart sought his constituents’ views on a series of healthcare issues in a recent social media post, saying that A&E at Withybush was to be ‘downgraded’.

“Withybush will no longer be taking emergency paediatric cases and will be downgraded to a minor injuries unit for treating children until next spring,” he said, adding that it was 'reasonable to gauge public attitudes to these options as that should be helpful in shaping the board's final recommendations'.

However, Hywel Dda Health Board said that this was no change to the ‘Covid-19 temporary position’ implemented in March 2020.

This saw Withybush Hospital’s Paediatric Ambulatory Care Unit (PACU) closed and repurposed as part of the Covid-19 response.

Since March 2020, families with children suffering minor injuries have still been able to access care at Withybush via the minor injuries unit, but children with acute illness have been directed to Glangwili General Hospital in Carmarthen.

The health board said that consideration to whether that temporary position would be continued would be discussed at the health board’s board meeting on September 30.

It did admit, however, that the longer-term position on children’s services would need to be looked at in 2022.

Hywel Dda deputy chief executive and medical director Dr Philip Kloer said:

“We will discuss our ability to deal with both the ongoing pandemic and to care for the increasing numbers of children very unwell, due to respiratory viruses being experienced across the country.

“It is not a proposal to make a further change to children’s hospital services at Withybush Hospital, beyond considering if we continue the Covid-19 temporary position put in place in March 2020, for a further agreed period of time.

“This involved the temporary relocation of the Paediatric Ambulatory Care Unit at Withybush Hospital to Glangwili Hospital, Carmarthen.

“Any decision about the provision of health care to children in our community will be based on their safety and will have their clinical interests as a priority.”

Dr Kloer added that the longer-term future of paediatric services would need to be reviewed next year.

“We will consider a range of data, including patient and family experiences. We will also engage with and involve the community, as well as health care partners and public representatives, so they can share their views with us for consideration.”

He added that a further update would be provided following the board meeting, which members of the public can watch from 9.30am on Thursday September 30.

More information, including a link to the meeting can be found at: hduhb.nhs.wales/about-us/your-health-board/board-meetings-2021/board-agenda-and-papers-30th-september-2021.

Dr Kloer added that the board meeting would also ‘include a recommendation for the clearest possible advice to our public about when and how they can access unplanned healthcare services for children'.

The health board is urging parents of children of a child or young person under 16 who is unwell or injured not to delay in seeking advice and treatment.

Children with minor injuries will still be able to access care at Withybush but parents of children with unknown symptoms are asked to either contact their local GP, out of hours services via NHS 111, they may be advised to take your child to Glangwili Hospital Emergency Department if paediatric specialists' input is needed. For children with emergency conditions, parents are asked to dial 999.

If a child requires admission, one parent can be resident on the ward, due to Covid-19 restrictions.

The spokesperson confirmed that the dedicated ambulance vehicle (DAV) at Withybush for women, babies and children was still in place.

“This is the same temporary service change as has been in place since spring last year and we continue to work with the Welsh Ambulance Service Trust and other partners in healthcare delivery,” they added.