Labour’s Health Minister has refused to provide a guarantee that no emergency department in North Wales will be downgraded.
In his response to a letter from the Welsh Conservatives, the Minister declines to add anything to a previous explanation of reports that ‘downgrading’ A and E services will be ‘considered as an option’ at Ysbyty Gwynedd, Glan Clwyd and Wrexham Maelor hospitals.
Shadow Minister for Health Darren Millar AM emphasised the importance of prioritising A and E and requested a ‘cast-iron guarantee’ that no North Wales hospital would face downgrading in 2014, or beyond.
Last month the Minister also suggested that emergency department recruitment challenges would require a reduction in major A&E centres and went on to confirm within the Welsh Government’s Together for Health programme that ‘the first phase of plans for North Wales is now being implemented’ – implying that more upheaval is on the way.
Mr Millar said:
“The Minister’s response is a cop-out. It provides no reassurances for communities across North Wales and does nothing to allay fears of downgrading.
"This was a real opportunity for Carwyn Jones and Welsh Labour to set the record straight.
“Their refusal to do so confirms that downgrading is on the cards and that further upheaval of acute services, including emergency departments, is in the pipeline.
“This is not the right way forward for our hospitals and existing levels of key services at Ysbyty Gwynedd, Ysbyty Glan Clwyd and Wrexham Maelor Hospital must be maintained.
“Patients should not be forced to travel further for emergency life-saving treatment and hardworking staff – already hamstrung by Labour’s legacy of record-breaking budget cuts – should be properly supported.”
Darren Millar’s initial letter is below.
In recent weeks you have made a number of statements which have caused a great deal of uncertainty over the future of emergency departments across the region.
You have suggested that your comments to the BBC regarding ‘downgrading’ were down to a misunderstanding relating to the Welsh language, but further to this, in an interview on vacancies in Emergency Departments and in your recent written statement on Together for Health, you seem to have re-enforced the suggestion that further upheaval of acute services, including in emergency departments, is likely.
Today, for the sake of patients and hardworking NHS staff, I am writing to you to request that you put an end to this uncertainty and make a cast iron guarantee that the Emergency Departments at Ysbyty Gwynedd, Ysbyty Glan Clwyd and Wrexham Maelor Hospital will not be downgraded and that the existing level of service which they provide will be maintained, at least for the duration of your tenure as Minister for Health and Social Services.
The people of North Wales are seeking such a commitment and I trust that this letter will provide you with an opportunity to provide the unequivocal response which they seek.
I look forward to your reply.