A STEADY stream of visitors attended Hywel Dda health board’s drop-in session at Cardigan Guildhall yesterday (Friday May 4).

They were there to discuss and voice concerns about the planned shake-up of health care throughout Ceredigion, Carmarthenshire and Pembrokeshire.

The health board has officially launched a 12-week consultation, “Hywel Dda – Our Big NHS Change,” which is aimed at making provision of local health and care better for its communities.

The board is asking residents to get involved and have their say on the proposals and the drop in session at Cardigan was the first of several such public engagements throughout the region.

The plans – which would include the downgrading of Glangwili and Withybush Hospitals and a new hospital being built between St Clears and Whitland – have proved highly controversial and have sparked a major debate.

A petition has been launched in Pembrokeshire opposing the downgrading of Withybush.

One concern raised by many at the Cardigan meeting centred on poor transport links and the distance to any proposed new hospital.

Brian Pullen, Welsh Ambulance Service locality manager for Ceredigion, was keen to stress that a patient’s treatment now starts the moment the ambulance turns up.

“At the moment, if you have a full-blown heart attack you would be taken to Morriston, not Glangwili or Withybush,” said Mr Pullen.

“People talk about the ‘golden hour’ and the need to get treatment quickly and that is what paramedics now provide. The ambulance is not just there to provide transport, it is the start of your treatment.

“Once the ambulance arrives, you are quickly assessed and your heart rhythm is already being looked at by the consultant in the hospital and you will be getting the same standard of treatment as if you were in a hospital environment.

“And if the new hospital is built, it will actually be closer for people who do suffer heart attacks, for example. It will also be closer for relatives to visit.

“The skill levels of paramedics is climbing all the time and they are able to take clinical decisions.”

Dr Meinir Jones, clinical director of transformation at Hywel Dda, was keen to stress that the proposals were being driven by medical staff as the best way forward for the future.

“It is an ambitious plan but we want to join up the whole system, with the team working together to deliver care at a time when the patient needs it,” she said.

“That might not necessarily mean in a hospital and it is up to us to ensure the community trusts us in what we are doing and have the appropriate services available.

“It is a massive amount of education for the general public to take in. It is great to see how much people value their communities and health care should be supporting that.

“We are not absolving our responsibilities but health is so much more than we can provide alone.”

Jeff Baker UNISON Cymru Wales regional organiser said: “Healthcare workers are frustrated by the current system. There’s a logjam discharging patients and bed-blocking as a result. Health and social care must be integrated.

“However, the proposals are very ambitious and this the first time a health board is trying to reform emergency services at the same time as plan care and community service.

“If this fails, the new hospital will end up with same pressures as current hospitals and the system will break down.

“We need assurances from the board, local government and Welsh government that these challenges can be met.”

Feedback will be independently analysed before any formal proposal is put before the health board for decision on how to proceed later in 2018.

Find out more about the consultation and the health board’s proposals or tell it your views, by:

Completing the online questionnaire at: www.hywelddahb.wales.nhs.uk/hddchange

Emailing hyweldda.engagement@wales.nhs.uk

Telephone: 01554 899056