Local politics and health: Hundreds from West Wales (Pembrokeshire) to protest at the Senedd against ‘downgrading’ of Withybush Hospital

There is no reflection in or from our local press and radio, on the rejection of a “New Build” Hospital some 6-7 years ago, after a 3 year debate starting in 2006.. This rejection was led by SWAT and the Media, and the public ignored the advice of their paid and appointed experts.  Admittedly the management and quality of the public meetings at the time was poor. The Western Telegraph on 24th May 2006 reported (before on-line availability):

Breaks Ranks 24052006 I remember saying at the time that this was the best deal the area would get.. I still think it will happen longer term, once transport links are good enough, and there is over-supply of locally based doctors…

Now Rachael Misstear reports 4th March 2015: Hundreds from West Wales to protest at the Senedd against ‘downgrading’ of Withybush Hospital as organised by SWAT (Save Withybush Action Team).

Cartoon Man Protesting Unfairness

It is inevitable that, with their seats identical to Pembrokeshire, that the WAM and the MP (both Conservative) will protest and join the action at the Senedd. However, imagine that the number of MPs was cut to 1/6 and the number of WAMs pro rata the same. We would have far fewer overheads! But the important thing is that a representative of West Wales, whose constituency was over the same area as the Hywel Dda Trust would have different priorities. He would have to “satisfice” In his opinion, casting a compromise for the best utility value. Given that there is not a great deal of wealth in the area, we are dependent on handouts from Cardiff (on health, education and social welfare), which are “progressive” in nature – that is reducing inequalities. Rejection of the changes is tantamount to “saying no to government healthcare” as in the US


Regressive change increases inequalities, and wealth, whereas progressive change reduces these differences. Hywel Dda does not have cardiac surgery, or neurosurgery. These were never planned for the “New Build”, and the argument for a larger South and West Wales Trust is a good one, as then these specialist services would be within the same financial unit. By excluding them the opportunity for preferential access leads to covert post-code rationing. Co-incidentally, by removing the aspiration (Sir Bruce Keogh is derisive of mediocrity) in Wales and the “mission statement” of Withybush which was “Aspiring to excellence”, recruitment became harder…

So it strikes NHSreality as perverse that a consultant should stand for Westminster when he would have no influence over the spend or the configuration in Wales. It is opportunistic in that it gives the “protest” vote a chance, but the changes have been coming since 2006, and the Welsh Assembly elections (where the power is) are only 12 months away. Would Mr Overton propose a return to Wales being run efficiently by the Welsh Office I wonder? Does he believe that we can provide “Everything for everyone for ever“, or does he believe we need to ration care overtly? Does he believe in co-payments? What documents will he expect to get access to that the “freedom of information” requests will not? Does he believe Cardiac Surgery should be at Carmarthen or Haverfordwest – it is cardiac problems which cause far the most premature deaths? How would he address the recruitment and retention crisis for medics in rural areas short and long term? Very few medics apply to work in Pembrokeshire…. and those that go to medical school from Pembrokeshire rarely elect to return..

NHSreality has offered an interview. Perhaps now he is a prospective MP an interview will be forthcoming.. It was most wrong to suspend him in 2005, and freedom of speech is a liberty which we all value highly. There needs to be engagement by those making the rationing decisions as to why they are reasonable, and why they were made. In addition all West Wales voters need to hear what is planned to correct the disparity in outcomes between those living in rural areas and those living in cities…

Watch protesters against Withybush Hospital changes tell you why they are opposed to the controversial plans

As it happened: Hundreds travel from West Wales to Senedd to protest ‘downgrading’ of Withybush Hospital

Leaked document ‘proved’ NHS consultation on West Wales hospital services ‘was a sham’, hears court

Review of cardiac services in Mid and West Wales an ‘immediate priority’

Cardiac services in West Wales should be ‘redesigned and concentrated at a new hub’

Cardiac services in West Wales should be ‘redesigned and concentrated at a new hub’

Celia Hall reported 14th January 2005 in The Telegraph: Doctor suspended after protesting at hospital bed cuts and then BBC news (Wales) 4th February 2005 reported: Critical doctor is reinstated 

Louis Hellman cartoon, first published in Architects’ Journal

This entry was posted in A Personal View, Post Code Lottery, Professionals, 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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