LOCAL health board chiefs have been accused of 'squeezing' Withybush hospital out of in-patient beds 'to prepare Carmarthen to take over services'.

SWAT (Save Withybush Action Team) chairman Dr Chris Overton said: "Our research into bed availability shows that Carmarthen has a significant excess of beds available, especially for a hospital with an 85% bed occupancy in December 2011, while Pembrokeshire was at 95%.

"The health board is squeezing Withybush."

Dr Overton said that even if the 40 beds at the urology ward in Glangwili are discounted, there is still an extra 87 beds in Carmarthen.

Dr Overton pointed out that Pembrokeshire has a higher tourist influx and a larger base of maritime and industrial enterprise.

He said: "This has a significant knock-on effect for other services, because if a county has low bed counts, patients in A&E cannot go anywhere."

He added that bed shortages at Withybush Hospital have already meant that six male patients were placed in ward four - the gynaecology and women's surgical ward.

And it will only get worse if the health board pushes through with service changes, said Dr Overton.

"It may be conjecture, but it seems as though the chief executives are readying Carmarthen to take over in-patient services".

A Hywel Dda Health Board spokesperson said: "We do not recognise these figures but would agree there are too many beds being inappropriately used. This is a Health Board wide situation.

"A recent bed audit has revealed that up to 40% of people currently in our hospital beds are there unnecessarily.

"We want to develop community services to provide the right care, in the right place, at the right time, which will improve patient flow through our hospitals, avoid delayed discharges, and help keep people at home for longer."