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Withybush: Special care baby unit to close

WithybushIT HAS BEEN announced today that the Special Care Baby Unit at Withybush hospital, Haverfordwest will close, but consultant led services will remain at the hospital until such time as midwife led service is ready to be deployed.

Health Minister for Wales, Mark Drakeford: “Essential factor is that a mother should be able to make an informed decision on the place of birth. These changes will mean that the majority of services will be continued to be provided locally by their GP and hospital as they are now. Women can continue to safely have their deliveries at the midwife led units.” He continued: “I endorse the new service model”

Commenting on the statement from the welsh Labour Government on the future of level 2 neonatal services in the Hywel Dda Health Board area in West Wales, Paul Davies, Assembly Member for Preseli Pembrokeshire, said:

“This decision represents a bleak day for the people of Pembrokeshire who have campaigned and fought tirelessly to protect lifesaving baby services at Withybush Hospital.

“This decision is dangerous and in immediately life-threatening cases, could pose severe harm to mothers and babies and Welsh Labour Ministers carry a heavy responsibility in pursuing this centralising agenda.

“Expectant mothers must be confident in the knowledge that services are fit for purpose and that care for sick and vulnerable babies will be available if the worst happens.

“Travelling any distance lessens survival chances and in a rural area like Pembrokeshire, reaching medical attention within the golden hour can make the difference between life and death.

“We need to hear a cast iron guarantee from Labour Ministers that there will be no reduction in paediatrics or other services at Withybush Hospital as a result of this downgrade.

“Many patients will see this closure as a financial decision, perhaps resulting from Labour’s legacy of record-breaking NHS cuts.”

Angela Burns, Assembly Member for Carmarthen West & South Pembrokeshire, said, “Trust and safety are the two most important things for any new mother and baby when they are in a healthcare environment.

“We need a clear undertaking from the Welsh Government that Labour Ministers will keep a close watch on neonatal care in West Wales for the security of patients.

“Many patients fear that Hywel Dda Health Board is trigger happy when it comes to closing services, but not quick enough in getting alternative proposals in place or recruiting staff to properly resources those services.

“It is critical that safety nets are in place before any closures to give campaigners and families confidence that the best interests of mothers and babies are the overriding priority in devising neonatal care provision.

“Labour Ministers must now assure patients in Pembrokeshire that this is not a slippery slope towards the further loss of services at Withybush Hospital.”

Paul Davies AM said “Today is a bleak day for the people of Pembrokeshire. The minister has made it clear that he will close the SCBU at Withybush, and this will put lives at risk. This decision has been taken without geographical considerations being taken into account. The WAG needs to take into consideration transfer times and transport. Pembrokeshire has challenging transport links, and if critical services are not based in Pembrokeshire then it is unlikely that people will be able to access critical services within one hour. New centralised baby unit will cost over £12,000,000 to set up.”

Mark Drakeford replied: “Should it be the case after 12 months that the new service level is unsafe then any sensible person would want to revisit that model. I am confident that Withybush hospital will continue as a hospital in West Wales and I only last week announced more capital investment in that hospital.”
Mark Drakeford, claims that while essential SCBU services are transferred, there will be a “safety net” and that work would be done on commissioning emergency transport arrangements.

Local AM, Paul Davies, asked why these arrangements were thought necessary now and not thought essential as part of the original planned service transfer.

Stephen Crabb MP told the Herald: “I am shocked and appalled at the decision by the Welsh Health Minister in Cardiff today to axe the unit which has helped save the lives of so many vulnerable mums and babies in our County.”

“This news is a cold and bitter blow to all the people across Pembrokeshire who have fought hard to save the Special Care Baby Unit. They will rightfully feel angry and deeply disappointed that their grave concerns have been ignored by the Minister. There can be no doubt that this decision will cause huge anxiety in the community. I fear that the closure of SCBU is the start of the wholesale downgrading that Welsh Government and the Health Board has been planning all along.”

“The argument that it all comes down to budget cuts is nonsense. The Labour Welsh Government was actually given extra money for health after the Coalition in Westminster ring-fenced health spending against cuts. Welsh Ministers then chose to go ahead and cut its health budget. Instead they have spent money on things like Cardiff Airport which cost the taxpayer in Wales £52 million.”

“As many Pembrokeshire people know, the Welsh Government has been trying desperately to move health services from Withybush Hospital since before 2005. The Labour Ministers in Cardiff need to wake up to reality and realise that centralising these vital services will put lives at risk in our rural communities. The next step in the campaign to save SCBU is through the courts and I fully support any such action.  I will be providing any assistance I can to help overturn this decision.”

Commenting on the statement from the welsh Labour Government on the future of level 2 neonatal services in the Hywel Dda Health Board area in West Wales, Paul Davies, Assembly Member for Preseli Pembrokeshire, said:

“This decision represents a bleak day for the people of Pembrokeshire who have campaigned and fought tirelessly to protect lifesaving baby services at Withybush Hospital.

“This decision is dangerous and in immediately life-threatening cases, could pose severe harm to mothers and babies and Welsh Labour Ministers carry a heavy responsibility in pursuing this centralising agenda.

“Expectant mothers must be confident in the knowledge that services are fit for purpose and that care for sick and vulnerable babies will be available if the worst happens.

“Travelling any distance lessens survival chances and in a rural area like Pembrokeshire, reaching medical attention within the golden hour can make the difference between life and death.

“We need to hear a cast iron guarantee from Labour Ministers that there will be no reduction in paediatrics or other services at Withybush Hospital as a result of this downgrade.

“Many patients will see this closure as a financial decision, perhaps resulting from Labour’s legacy of record-breaking NHS cuts.”

Angela Burns, Assembly Member for Carmarthen West & South Pembrokeshire, said, “Trust and safety are the two most important things for any new mother and baby when they are in a healthcare environment.

“We need a clear undertaking from the Welsh Government that Labour Ministers will keep a close watch on neonatal care in West Wales for the security of patients.

“Many patients fear that Hywel Dda Health Board is trigger happy when it comes to closing services, but not quick enough in getting alternative proposals in place or recruiting staff to properly resources those services.

“It is critical that safety nets are in place before any closures to give campaigners and families confidence that the best interests of mothers and babies are the overriding priority in devising neonatal care provision.

“Labour Ministers must now assure patients in Pembrokeshire that this is not a slippery slope towards the further loss of services at Withybush Hospital.”