Consultation on West Wales hospital ‘downgrading’ was no sham, claims health board

Martin Shipton in the Western Mail and Walesonline reports 26th June 2014: Consultation on West Wales hospital ‘downgrading’ was no sham, claims health board 

The High Court in Cardiff is currently hearing a challenge to Hywel Dda University Health Board’s decision to change the delivery of certain hospital-based services in Carmarthenshire and Pembrokeshire.

A health board’s lawyer has rejected claims from campaigners that its consultation on reconfiguring hospital services in West Wales was a sham.

The High Court in Cardiff is currently hearing a challenge to Hywel Dda University Health Board’s decision to change the delivery of certain hospital-based services in Carmarthenshire and Pembrokeshire. Opponents of plans to “downgrade” accident and emergency services at Prince Philip Hospital in Llanelli and the neo-natal unit at Withybush Hospital in Haverfordwest claim the changes will endanger the lives of patients.

Nicholas Bowen QC, for the campaigners, claimed on the hearing’s first day that a leaked health board document detailing plans to save £100m over three years by cutting services demonstrated that the board’s mind was already made up before a consultation process with stakeholders and the public was embarked upon.

He said the emphasis on cost saving in the unpublished document contradicted the board’s public assertion that decisions were being made purely on clinical grounds.

But Monica Carss-Frisk QC, for Hywel Dda, said the consultation had been conducted entirely lawfully.

She told the court: “We would emphasise how guidance from the Welsh Government made it clear that the status quo was not an option.

“The consultation document made it clear that no decision had yet been reached between a number of options. We say there is absolutely no basis in the evidence {before the court} to say that wasn’t a perfectly acceptable statement.”

Ms Carss-Frisk went on to describe the “massive report” produced by independent consultants ORS which analysed the results of the consultation process. Two opinion surveys had been carried out, the most reliable of which was a household survey which showed there was significant support for change.

She said: “The health board went to real lengths to engage with people and publicise what they were doing about the consultation. As well as the ORS report, the Consultation Institute examined the process and issued a certificate of best practice in respect of the consultation.

“The fact that we invited two independent organisations to assess the consultation process shows something about how seriously we took our obligations. It sits very ill with the allegation that the consultation was a sham.”

In respect of the leaked report dating from July 2010, Ms Carss-Frisk argued that the suggestion it provided evidence that the health board’s mind was made up before the consultation simply did not stack up.

She said: “Things developed as the process went along and there were changes between what was stated in the July 2010 report and what came later. For example, the 2010 report said there would be no medical admissions unit at the Prince Philip Hospital, when later it was proposed that there should be such a unit.”

On the question of saving money, Ms Carss-Frisk said: “While like every public body the health board has to be aware of monetary constraints, the reality is that the proposals on how the health service in the region would change were based not on cash but on clinical considerations.”

Rationing by deceit? At least this makes it clear that the “rules of the game” which led to the Hywel Dda decisions, tantamount to “bringing back fear”, come from the WG. We get the government we deserve…

This entry was posted in Rationing, Stories in the Media on by .

About Roger Burns - retired GP

I am a retired GP and medical educator. I have supported patient participation throughout my career, and my practice, St Thomas; Surgery, has had a longstanding and active Patient Participation Group (PPG). I support the idea of Community Health Councils, although I feel they should be funded at arms length from government. I have taught GP trainees for 30 years, and been a Programme Director for GP training in Pembrokeshire 20 years. I served on the Pembrokeshire LHG and LHB for a total of 10 years. I completed an MBA in 1996, and I along with most others, never had an exit interview from any job in the NHS! I completed an MBA in 1996, and was a runner up for the Adam Smith prize for economy and efficiency in government in that year. This was owing to a suggestion (St Thomas' Mutual) that practices had incentives for saving by being allowed to buy rationed out services in the following year.

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