Recent press reports have indicated that Welsh Health Minister has called for an "independent" review. How "independent" in reality is this review. Lets look at the facts. I understand the Health Minister had a full briefing from the Health Board prior to the issue going to the full board and independent members. Clearly if this is the case then the Minister did nothing to stop the downgrading proposals going ahead. Which is surprising because there had been a complete lack of consultation with staff, patients and the Community Health Council who are there to protect our, the patients, interests. The Minister must have known none of this had happened.
So - knowing what he did, and in the face of huge public opposition he has now appointed two Welsh Government appointees to look at the processes and decision making by the Board. Lets be clear - the decision that is being looked as is NOT the closure - but whether or not the plans to return services to the hospital are clear. If the services leave - the review can happen and everything will be kicked into the long grass until 2017 (co-incidentally after the general election and after the Assembly elections) and Labour think they are safe again to say "temporarily" moved services will be permanently moved. That is what has happened at all the other places where Professor Purt has been. Withybush is a classic example of temporary services disappearing permanently.
Nothing in the Minister's letter acknowledges the knock on effects of removing the maternity service. If the maternity services go from Glan Clwyd - so will the Special Care Baby Unit. Where is that going to go? If it goes to the Maelor babies from Ysbty Gwynedd are going to have to travel over 66 miles to access special care, meaning a greater risk to mothers and their babies. A&E risks being downgraded without obstetrics as there will be no emergency care/expertise available on the site. Most midwife led maternity units in England are within 10 miles of a consultant led service - that will not happen here where it is 33 miles. Therefore the English statistics on safety are irrelevant, as the circumstances are totally different.
Finally the Ministers letter says nothing about the 1 in 11 rota which apparently has created so called "clinical risks". Everywhere else in the UK is a 1 in 8 rota, so why now has the Deanery imposed a 1 in 11 rota in Wales. The board were given the option of continuing with a 1 in 8 rota - provided the board would guarantee the training element for Doctors - they refused. It is that refusal that has led the management to be able to argue that services are "unsustainable" and a clinical risk. The letter from the Minister published in the Daily Post today says nothing about this - why not. It is not looking at whether or not services should be moved. A truly independent inquiry would be looking into why BCUHB refused to provide the training guarantee, and would be looking into what attempts were made by the board to organise rotas across all three sites. Which so far are none or almost none.
Without looking at those issues, then the review is not a review, but a rubber stamping exercise by Welsh Government. The deadline for submission of the business case for the Sub Regional Neonatal Unit is the end of March - the Minister knows that - where is the business case. Surely BCUHB should be championing publicly the creation of this new unit which will help with the recruitment issues - but no deafening silence. If the March deadline is missed - that will tell you all you need to know about the Health Board's intentions. The words "kick into the long grass" come to mind.
The Deanery rotation decision is apparently being looked at by the Welsh Government Health Minister - but his letter says nothing about the Review looking into workplace rotation, and rota issues - why not? I questioned him on this last week, and he said that he would get his civil servants to "look into the matter". What has happened since is a deafening silence. I and the other AMs are waiting for his response, but deafening silence is not enough, and I would have expected the Minister to have an immediate answer as to why this is being imposed here in Wales, when a 1 in 8 rota could provide safe and sustainable services in the long term.
I urge you all to attend the protest meeting at the Events Arena in Rhyl on Saturday 21st February 2pm. I along with many other Welsh AMs will be there, because this review is not a review.