Caution As Health Plans ‘On Hold’

Campaigners have given a cautious welcome to the First Minister’s announcement that Welsh hospital re-organisation has been put on hold. Some hospitals were due to be closed and services centralised under Labour proposals for “reconfiguration”, a big issue in the assembly election.

However, health service managers have called for the pause to be short. Health experts have also warned that Welsh hospitals cannot afford to continue as they are now.

Mr Morgan wrote letters to Plaid Cymru and the Liberal Democrats in which he revealed Labour’s intentions to review its hospital plans. During the assembly’s first full business session since the election, Mr Morgan said changes still needed to be made and called on the opposition parties to come up with solutions.

In the letter, Mr Morgan also said that his government would undertake that already agreed changes in district general hospitals would not be implemented until associated community services were in place.

Campaigner Jean Daniels, who is hoping to keep Abergele hospital in Conwy open, said the announcement gave them hope. Community leaders hoping to save HM Stanley hospital at St Asaph from closure said they hoped the review would lead to threatened services at the hospital, which include eye treatment, being retained.

But Linda Groom, from the Llandudno Hospital action group which is campaigning to retain coronary and acute services there, warned that the moratorium could simply delay the inevitable.

The Welsh NHS Confederation – which represents health service management – said Mr Morgan was right to review its proposals so that community services could be put in place.

But Mike Ponton, director of the confederation, said any pause in the process of change would have to be short to ensure the delivery of 21st century care to the people of Wales.

Health expert Professor Marcus Longley said the NHS in Wales could not afford to continue as it is now. “The quality of care is not as good as it should be,” he said. “If we are aspiring to have the best care in the world then we don’t try to run everything in 16 hospitals across Wales. We simply cannot sustain that.”