Axe Falls On Llandudno Hospital Heart Services

HEALTH minister Edwina Hart is today expected to announce the findings of a crucial review into the future of Llandudno hospital which will confirm the loss of acute services for coronary care patients.

But the minister is expected to reveal plans for a range of other enhanced or expanded services for Llandudno hospital, including a response to calls for more rehabilitation and diagnostic facilities.

Among the possible changes campaigners are looking for are expanded neurological, cataract, and orthopaedic services, alongside enhanced breast cancer diagnostic facilities.

A final decision on breast surgery at Llandudno remains unclear – although previous studies also called for its transfer to a major district general hospital along with other acute specialist surgery amid patient safety concerns.

Llandudno Hospital Action Group chairman Linda Groom has criticised the expected axing of coronary care unit at the hospital as a ‘death warrant’ for some heart patients.

Health Minister Edwina Hart is understood to be making a statement today to the Welsh Assembly about the closure.

But Conwy County Coun Mrs Groom said: “If that’s the case and she does announce that, I would not like to be in her shoes when the first heart patient dies on the way to Ysbyty Gwynedd in Bangor or Ysbyty Glan Clwyd in Bodelwyddan because they can’t be treated at Llandudno Hospital.

“She has signed a death warrant for some people – you can’t say any less than that. For heart patients, the risk goes up for every extra mile you go to get treatment.”

Proposals to downgrade Llandudno hospital by the loss of acute heart and breast services prompted a huge backlash with more than 1,500 protesters marching in a demonstration last April.

But one political source insisted last night: “The idea that it will be downgraded to a nothing hospital just isn’t going to happen.”

The new future for the hospital could include retention of the minor injuries unit, more capacity for day case surgery, improved outpatient facilities, dedicated endoscopy service and development of rheumatology.

Health minister Edwina Hart is scheduled to make a statement to AMs in the Senedd later today on “reconfiguration of services in North Wales”.

It is understood that she is likely to accept recommendations in a review into the future of the Llandudno hospital commissioned from Frank Burns, the former chief executive of Wirral hospitals.

It is understood the advice does not include keeping acute coronary services at Llandudno.

The conclusion of the review is expected, nevertheless, to spell out a positive future for a hospital to serve the needs of around 80,000 people in the area.

Mrs Hart praised the “excellent services” at Llandudno during a visit to North Wales last week.

Despite the political sensitivity of the hospital’s future, she has been mindful of issues of clinical governance around the specialist surgery there.

She wants to deliver as many non-specialist services in the NHS in the community or as close to patients’ homes as possible.

Any final decision on expanded services at the hospital is likely to depend on an examination of the costs.

The original plans were contained in the “Designed for North Wales” plan for the reconfiguration of the NHS in the region which suggested the removal of coronary care, stroke and breast surgery from the hospital, prompting howls of protests.

That became a major political issue in last May’s Assembly elections.

Plaid Cymru AM for Aberconwy Gareth Jones led the complaints, standing as the “Save Llandudno Hospital” candidate in the poll, defeating the sitting Labour AM.

The result of the review will be closely examined by campaigners who were opposed to the removal of the key services from the resort town.

The result of a separate review into the way the public consultation over hospital reconfiguration was handled in North Wales is still awaited but that is expected to include some hard lessons for those in NHS planning.

The minister said she would be issuing new guidelines on how it should be handled in future.