Withybush Hospital's Special Care Baby Unit (SCBU) will close, the health minister has confirmed.

Welsh Health Minister Mark Drakeford approved plans for a level two neonatal unit to be created at Glangwili Hospital, Carmarthen - paving the way for the closure of the Special Care Baby Unit at Withybush Hospital.

Obstetric and maternity services at Bronglais and Withybush hospitals will become midwifery-led.

Mr Drakeford said following further information from Hywel Dda Health Board, the panel, brought in to consider the proposals, still believed a the establishment of a level two unit at Glangwili was best for patients.

Local residents and politicians have been angered by the decision, with Preseli Pembrokeshire AM Paul Davies describing the move as ‘putting lives at risk’.

The panel of experts claim the plans will “provide an improved service for Hywel Dda mothers and babies”, and recommends consultant obstetric support remains at Withybush until the new service model is in place.

The Minister said: “The panel has set out a number of important provisos and recommend a phased introduction of the new model. These include robust ‘safety net’ arrangements to provide midwives with skilled assistance in the event of an unexpected emergency.

“The panel’s conclusion is that the new service model will ‘provide an improved service for Hywel Dda mothers and babies’. That is the basis on which it has secured my endorsement.”

Local AM Paul Davies expressed his outrage, following the decision.

He said: “This decision is dangerous and in immediately life-threatening cases, could pose severe harm to mothers and babies.

“Travelling any distance lessens survival chances and in a rural area like Pembrokeshire, reaching medical attention within the golden hour can make the difference between life and death.”

Stephen Crabb MP said he was ‘shocked and appalled’ at the decision to axe the unit, calling it a ‘cold and bitter blow’ to people across Pembrokeshire.

He said: "There can be no doubt that this decision will cause huge anxiety in the community. I fear that the closure of SCBU is the start of the wholesale downgrading that Welsh Government and the Health Board has been planning all along.

"Centralising these vital services will put lives at risk in our rural communities."

Dr Sue Fish, Medical Director, Hywel Dda University Health Board welcomed the announcement, stating it provided clarity in the aim of making services ‘safe and sustainable for the future’.

She added: “We are very clear that neither the Health Board nor the Minister would ever put forward an unsafe service and the safety net the Minister talked about – with Consultants available for the rare emergency whilst the model develops – will ensure patients are safe.”