Hywel Dda Health Board have announced they won’t yet be going out to public consultation on their plans for the health service in Ceredigion, Pembrokeshire & Carmarthenshire but will, first, be opening an extended 'listening period'.
Under the heading, “Your health: Your Future. The Health Board is listening”, today’s statement says,
“Because of the rumours circulating, misinformation, coupled to the leaking of draft documents which is undermining public confidence, the Board has decided that it will add an additional stage to the clinical services review in Hywel Dda prior to formal consultation. This will provide the opportunity for the public to form their opinions from an informed position and for the Health Board to be able to listen to their views.
“It is therefore our intention to undertake a period of pre-consultation engagement with our staff, our population and our neighbours who use our services. This exercise will enable us both to listen and inform our population on the current position, the case for change and the potential options for healthcare in the future. We recognise that any change can be challenging and we want to ensure there is a wider understanding of both the issues and potential solutions.
“There will be an extensive programme of activities, events and information sharing across all three counties. This listening programme will commence prior to Christmas and will continue well into the new year.
“We have been working closely with our clinicians to look at the potential options we have around our services. We are now at a stage where we believe this work, if shared more widely, will help shape the options for consultation. We will openly share the work we have done so far, listen to any concerns and take into consideration any alternative suggestions.
“No formal decisions have been reached and we hope the public will help us to shape the future of the local NHS.”
With the programme set to continue ‘well into the new year', it now seems clear that no decisions will be made before the local elections in May.
The statement goes on,
“Within Hywel Dda we are clear that no change is not an option. We must look at how we use the funding we have more effectively so we can provide our population with high quality, safe and sustainable services for the future.
“Once the listening period is completed, we will analyse the information we have received and this will influence any options we put forward for formal consultation.”
It’s difficult to argue with what reads as a genuine attempt by the Health Board to engage in dialogue in the face of almost continuous criticism in various local papers throughout the three counties in defence of their local hospitals, although the decision is almost certainly also influenced by a desire by the Welsh government to avoid difficulties for the Labour Party in South-west Wales in the lead-up to the elections.
For those campaigning to retain services at Bronglais Hospital, it’s interesting to note that campaigners for Llanelli Hospital turned up at today’s Board Meeting in Carmarthen. Llanelli is 11.5 miles from the next nearest hospital at Morriston in Swansea, roughly the distance from Aberystwyth to Llanon, Furnace or Ponterwyd. Bronglais Hospital, on the other hand, is 49.6 miles from their nearest hospital at Glangwili in Carmarthen. By any geographical consideration, Bronglais ought to be as safe as houses.