Plaid Cymru politicians across South West Wales have urged local health boards to support Morriston Hospital in its bid to be the home of a new Major Trauma Centre.
Carmarthenshire politicians Jonathan Edwards MP and Adam Price AM are concerned that west Wales patients will not have equality of access to specialist hospital services as NHS Wales proposes locating a new Major Trauma Centre in Cardiff instead of Swansea.
Six Health Boards, including Abertawe Bro Morgannwg and Hywel Dda will meet on Thursday (29 March) to take a decision on whether they support the findings of the NHS Wales Collaborative Leadership Forum (made up of Health Boards Chairs and Chief Executives) which has endorsed establishing a Major Trauma Centre in Cardiff.
Major trauma describes serious and often multiple injuries where there is a strong possibility of death or disability. These might include serious head, chest, abdominal and skeletal injuries sustained as a result of accidents, sport or violence.
Major trauma is the main cause of death for people under the age of 45 and is a major cause of debilitating long term injuries. More than half of major trauma is caused by road traffic accidents.
Swansea GP and fellow Plaid Cymru Assembly Member for South Wales West, Dr Dai Lloyd, believes that the decision, given its strategic importance, should be one taken by the Welsh Government's Cabinet Secretary for Health, and that elected representatives at the National Assembly for Wales should have a chance to discuss and vote on the matter. He has urged the local health boards not to support the endorsement of Cardiff.
Jonathan Edwards MP said:
"As we have previously said, we support the principle of a Major Trauma Network in order to provide the most specialist of treatments, with the most specialist of clinicians, around the clock and all in one place.
"In an ideal world we would have this located in Carmarthenshire, but the choice presented by NHS Wales is either Swansea or Cardiff. We are concerned that west Wales patients will not have equality of access to specialist hospital services were it to go to Cardiff.
"The Forum of Health Board Chairs and Chief Executives has since endorsed Cardiff to house the Major Trauma Centre. I have to say I am disappointed and very surprised by the decision taken by this forum.
"The communities Adam and I represent regrettably witness a higher rate of road traffic accidents on rural and semi-rural roads, as well as agriculture and activity-based accidents, often linked to tourism. It therefore makes sense to locate the major trauma centre closer to where incidents happen, rather than putting more pressures on the air ambulance service.
"In advance of the Health Board meeting on Thursday, I have urged representatives on Hywel Dda Board to support Morriston and keep services closer to west Wales. It would be very surprising indeed if Carmarthenshire, Pembrokeshire and Ceredigion representatives on Hywel Dda opted to favour major trauma services in Cardiff over Swansea."
Assembly Member Adam Price added:
"In our response to the consultation, Jonathan and I noted that the speed of transfer to specialist care it vital for those who suffer life-threatening injuries. I fear that west Wales residents will not have equality of access should this service be located in Cardiff.
"In supporting the work of our colleague, Dr Dai Lloyd AM, we believe Morriston Hospital, which already has a world class Burns and Plastics centre is a particularly strong candidate for a Major Trauma Centre.
"It already serves many residents of west Wales with specialist treatments, and is important to the longer-term sustainability of trauma services in south west Wales.
"We have to put an end to this ever-increasing centralisation of services away from the south west to Cardiff, only to then see services moved again over the border. As such we're calling on Hywel Dda to support Morriston and, in turn, support the patients of west Wales."
Swansea GP and fellow Plaid Cymru Assembly Member Dr Dai Lloyd stated:
"The recommendation by the NHS Wales Collaborative is hugely disappointing for those of us who believe that Wales needs a health service which is not solely delivered from Cardiff.
"Abertawe Bro Morgannwg Health Board had put forward a very strong bid that the Major Trauma Centre should be based at Morriston hospital, Swansea which already has the Burns and Plastics Centre on site. In my view, the geographical positioning of Morriston is vital – not only in terms of equity of access, particularly for patients in South, West and Mid Wales, but also in terms of protecting a Trauma Service in Wales in the long-term from any subsequent UK-wide reviews.
"This issue is of such strategic importance that the decision in my view has to be taken by elected representatives at the National Assembly. I am therefore calling on Abertawe Bro Morgannwg and Hywel Dda Health Boards to stand up for patients in South West Wales, to stick to their guns, and support the original and very strong bid by ABM Health Board that the Centre should be based in Morriston.
"Let's be clear - the future of Morriston Hospital as a regional centre of excellence is under threat. The political decision to move neurosurgery and paediatric neurosurgery services from Morriston Hospital to Cardiff was taken just over a decade ago by the Labour Welsh Government, and that very move is now being used to justify the establishment of the MTC in Cardiff instead of Swansea.
"We know that previous UK-wide reviews of certain specialties, such as Paediatric cardiac surgery, have seen services which were based in Swansea, lost to Cardiff and were then subsequently lost to Bristol. The reason for this was that Cardiff and Bristol were deemed to be too close together geographically. NHS Wales must mitigate the risk of this type of domino effect and this is why I believe that the decision should ultimately be one for the Welsh Government and our National Assembly."