AMs meet health board

MID and West Wales Assembly Members Rebecca Evans AM and Joyce Watson AM have met with representatives of Hywel Dda Health Board to discuss concerns that constituents have raised with them about the future provision of services in the region.

The AMs spent an hour and a half with Health Board Chair Chris Martin, Vice-Chair Sian Marie James, and Dr Phil Kloer, Director of Clinical Services discussing specific issues including the future of maternity and obstetric care, accident and emergency, and mental health provision across the health board area, as well as cross-cutting issues of quality and safety.

Regarding maternity care, Joyce Watson AM, who lives in Haverfordwest, said: “As of now, we are still awaiting the final plans regarding future maternity provision at Withybush. The Minister has promised to make a statement to the Assembly in the new year when he receives his expert report – and I look forward to scrutinising it fully.

“I have always been clear that I absolutely support the plan for a level 2 neonatal unit in the Hywel Dda area. The fact is, at the moment, we do not have level 2 neonatal support here.

“I have also always been clear that Withybush must retain a service that can stabilise mother and baby when complications occur. That is a red line and a promise that has been given in the Chamber.”

Rebecca Evans AM added: “Any decisions must be made on the basis of sound clinical evidence.

“The safety of mother and baby has to be the paramount consideration, and any case for change must demonstrate how it will ensure good outcomes.”

The AMs raised the importance of patient transport and the need to consider how any plans will affect ambulance and other hospital transport services, as well as the need to consider patients who are reliant on public transport.

Mrs Evans and Mrs Watson also sought, and received, assurances that agreement on minor injury cover in Tenby was now in place.

On the issue of quality and safety across the area, Mrs Evans welcomed the news that the Health Board is in discussion with the Chief Medical Officer for further advice and support on the way forward, and the news that the Health Board intends to appoint the Good Governance Institute to help them with “Ward to Board” reporting. They will also be asking them to provide advice on improving processes for systematically collecting and using patient experiences at an operational level.

Mrs Evans said: “The safety and quality of the health care that my constituents receive in the Hywel Dda area – both planned and emergency – is of paramount importance.

“I am glad that the Health Board is seeking external assistance to make improvements in the way it understands and responds to the patient experience. Listening to and learning from patients is essential in ensuring that problems are identified and resolved quickly.

“I am also aware that the Chair of the Health Board has already instructed the Independent Members of the Health Board to increase their regular programme of announced and unannounced walk-abouts in Hywel Dda hospitals over the coming months. Their observations will be considered at future Board meetings.”

Responding to the news that the Health Board is in the process of compiling a tender to commission external media and communications expertise to review its systems and processes in order to help it improve its communications, Mrs Watson said: “It is essential that people feel that they are being communicated with fully and openly by the Health Board. There has to be an on-going two-way dialogue.”

The AMs will continue to scrutinise the Health Board and its decisions both directly and through the Minister for Health and Social Services.

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