Health minister rejects Plaid's wrong figures claim

First published in News

Claims that health Minister, Mark Drakeford is using out-dated figures as he prepares to announce expected service cuts at Withybush Hospital, have been dismissed by the Welsh government.

John Osmond, Plaid Cymru¹s candidate in Preseli Pembrokeshire is challenging the minister to rethink possible reduction in maternity services at Withybush as he claims there is an error in the government's calculations.

But the Welsh Government says his research is wrong.

Mr Osmond said;

“In a debate on the proposed cuts in the Senedd on 27 November, 2013 Mark Drakeford made clear he was minded to support these changes. He said it was ‘an inescapable fact’ that the annual number of births in the Hywel Dda area was low - around 1,200 in Withybush, 500 at Bronglais in Aberystwyth, and 1,600 at Glangwili.

“Mr Drakeford claimed that the relevant Royal Colleges recommend, for reasons of best outcomes for mothers and babies, that any consultant should have responsibility for 500 births in any year.

“He also claimed that any obstetrician or gynaecologist currently working for Hywel Dda would, on average, oversee 214 births in a year, well below half that required to meet Royal College standards.

“But Mark Drakeford is wrong. His figures are 20 years out of date.

“Since the mid-1990s the Royal Colleges of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists revised their recommendations on number of births per consultant sharply downwards, to around 300. Its latest survey, in October 2013, of 203 hospital units across the UK showed an average number of births per consultant of 360.

“Withybush had 1,300 births in the last year and has five consultants. In practice this is equivalent to four, since they provide cover for each other at weekends and holidays and for study leave. Therefore, each is responsible for overseeing the births of 325 babies a year, not far short of the UK average.

“Morriston Hospital in Swansea is considerably below the norm. It has 16 consultants who between them oversee 3,300 births a year, an average of 206.

“The truth is that obstetricians or gynaecologists currently working for Hywel Dda are overseeing more births than the Royal Colleges recommend and are not that far below the UK average.

“People across Pembrokeshire will be aghast to learn that maternity services face being seriously downgraded on the basis of incorrect figures.

“I am urging the Minister to look again at these ill-considered plans and to listen to the very real concerns of people across southwest Wales, where the brunt of his cutbacks seem destined to fall.”

A Welsh Government spokesman said,

“With regards to the charge that the Minister used out-of-date figures in the November debate on Withybush, he is simply wrong. The Minister’s references in that debate were based on Health Board calculations, using the most up-to-date guidance available at the time. That guidance has now altered, but only in December 2013. The scrutiny panel will have all the latest evidence and guidance to hand as they form their recommendations.

“We do not recognise the references Mr Osmond makes to recommendations from the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists in relation to 300 births per consultants, he will need to evidence this claim.”

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