Outcry Triggers Llandudno Hospital Climbdown

AN OUTCRY triggered by the Daily Post’s exclusive revelation that cardiac care was to be slashed at Llandudno Hospital, yesterday forced a ministerial retreat.

Health minister Edwina Hart had planned to announce to the Welsh Assembly that the hospital would lose its acute care services for heart attack patients.

Instead, she played for time, declaring she needed “one further round of face- to-face discussions” with local people before making up her mind.

Her speech yesterday left the future of heart, breast and stroke services at Llandudno General shrouded in doubt.

Addressing AMs in the Welsh Assembly, Mrs Hart said she was under no illusions about satisfying everyone.

She said: “For this reason, and because of the commitments I have given to local people in Llandudno, I have decided to embark on one further round of face-to- face discussions with relevant groups and organisations.”

She said she would go to Llandudno to discuss the proposals for the future of the hospital “as soon as practicable”. with local people and health groups.

“I do not intend to delay my final decisions more than absolutely necessary, but I do know that it is far better to take that extra step, in engaging with local people, than to rush to judgment,” she said.

In her announcement, one of a series of NHS reviews ordered by Mrs Hart, she said a report on Llandudno General Hospital had endorsed plans to move its coronary care and acute stroke work to Ysbyty Glan Clwyd.

But the review also proposed bringing in an MRI scanner, midwifery-led birthing unit and bolstering other services to Llandudno.

She told AMs there was an “impressive list of potential developments” for the hospital, including keeping its minor injury unit and providing more out- patient work.

And some services, including day surgery, rheumatology and radiology, would be enhanced.

Ms Hart said the review report “sets out many very positive proposals for the future of Llandudno.”

A final decision would be made soon.

Last night Clwyd West Tory MP David Jones attacked the further delay over deciding the future of the coronary care and breast cancer units.

He said Mrs Hart had “fought shy of making a difficult decision” by announcing “another review”.

He said: “I hope Mrs Hart will consider the strength of feeling locally and make sure there are the proper levels of medical services for the people of Llandudno and Colwyn Bay.”

Llandudno Hospital Action Group chairman, Coun Linda Groom, having initially hit out at the news acute care was to be axed, said she was optimistic that the coronary care unit and breast cancer units would remain as the “status quo” and was “encouraged” by the promise of extra services.

Aberconwy AM Gareth Jones also remained optimistic that people with chest pains could still be treated, at least initially, at Llandudno.

He said: “My hope is that we can hang on to important aspects of cardiology, especially in the initial diagnostic stage, prior to any specialist treatment which may be elsewhere.”

Mr Jones, now an AM in the Labour- Plaid coalition, said Mrs Hart’s statement was a “solid guarantee” that Llandudno would not be downgraded from its status as an acute hospital.

He said: “The breast cancer surgery is one service that is absolutely essential to keep at Llandudno and I will continue to work with the minister to ensure it remains.

“I would be very disappointed if Edwina Hart accepts the recommendation of the review that this service should be moved elsewhere.

“The minister’s promise today represents a significant step forward in our fight. But we will not rest until we are absolutely sure the essential services needed in the area are retained at Llandudno hospital.”

But Conservative Darren Millar, Clwyd West AM, said the Labour-Plaid Assembly Government had put Llandudno Hospital on “death row”.

He said: “Many voted for Plaid Cymru last May on the basis that services at Llandudno Hospital would not be withdrawn.”

The future of Llandudno Hospital, in the marginal Aberconwy constituency, was a huge issue in last May’s Assembly election.

Hundreds took to the streets and thousands signed a petition to try and stop it being downgraded.