Powys Fights Hospital Service Cuts

Nearly 500 people have attended a passionate public meeting in Builth Wells against plans to cut services at the town’s community hospital. An action group has been set up to fight the proposals by Powys Local Health Board (LHB), which is facing a deficit of £3.5m.

In September, the LHB said that it wanted to make cuts at Llanidloes, Knighton, Bronllys and Builth Wells.

But Builth vicar Philip Morris said people had “lost trust” in the LHB.

Rev Morris, of Builth Against Closing Hospitals (Bach), an action group formed to fight the cuts, spoke at Thursday night’s meeting.

Earlier he told BBC Wales’ news website: “We have spent two years talking with the LHB about a new hospital for Builth and then they totally withdrew the plans.

“We even received assurances up until July that we were going to have a new hospital.

“But since the LHB meeting in September we’ve lost total trust in them. We are prepared for change, but not like this.”

During a rousing speech at the meeting in the Strand Theatre, Rev Morris urged people to write to the LHB’s chairman and chief executive.

“Write to Mansion Towers [the LHB’s headquarters is Mansion House] or should I say Ivory Towers – no, Fawlty Towers,” he joked.

Dr Richard Walters, GP at Builth and Llanwrtyd Wells Medical Practice, called on people in the town to get behind the campaign to save the hospital.

He said the assembly government’s 10-year health care plan, Design for Life, meant some district general hospitals would be downgraded and some community hospitals would close to pay for specialist treatment in city hospitals.

He added: “This is fine if you live in a city, but not good if you live in rural Powys, miles and miles from acute hospital services.

“Our LHB, a rural LHB, should know better.”

He said changes to health care in Wales would mean excellence in the cities and third world medicine in Powys.

Bach has started a fighting fund to save the hospital and it has also begun a petition which so far has received 1,500 signatures.

Builth Wells hospital (picture: Builth and Llanwrtyd Medical Practice)
Builth is one of four community hospitals facing closure

Thursday’s meeting also passed a vote of no confidence in the chair and chief executive of the LHB, and Bach said it would inform assembly health minister Brian Gibbons.

Builth Wells is the latest community to stage a meeting in protest at the LHB’s plans for hospitals in Powys.

Last month, up to 1,000 people formed a human ring in the “hands around Llanidloes hospital” demonstration. In September, about 800 people turned out at a meeting in the town in a show of concern.

At Llanidloes, the LHB plans to cut 18 beds, close an X-ray unit, a birthing centre and outpatient services.

Bronllys, near Brecon, and Knighton could lose GP beds and maternity services, while 12 GP beds, outpatient and X-ray services could be cut at Builth Wells.

The LHB did not comment prior to the meeting, but in September its chief executive Andy Williams said he understood people’s attachment to their hospital.

He added: “We must not allow ourselves to measure the effectiveness of health services by the number of hospital beds and by bricks and mortar.

“Some of our current buildings are outdated and we believe that the people of Powys deserve better.”