A WELSH Assembly Member has thrown his weight behind Withybush Hospital staff who are concerned with plans to shake-up healthcare in west Wales.

On October 18, the Withybush Medical Staff Committee, a group of staff opposed to plans which would see the hospital lose its urgent care unit, sent a letter to Steve Moore, Hywel Dda health board's chief executive.

The letter expressed concerns that Pembrokeshire would lose out more than other areas of west Wales under the transformation of clinical services agenda.

Now, Paul Davies, Preseli-Pembrokeshire AM and leader of the Welsh Conservative Party, has given his backing to the Withybush MSC’s letter.

Mr Davies said: “This letter is further proof that clinicians do not overwhelmingly support the changes that the local Health Board are implementing, as the Welsh Government would have the people of Pembrokeshire believe.

“It’s quite clear that the Withybush Medical Staff Committee have concerns over the centralisation of services further afield and they have made it abundantly clear that population needs have not been sufficiently taken into account.

“Of course, it’s my view that services must remain at Withybush Hospital and I will continue to do all that I can to see services protected in Pembrokeshire for the future.”

The Withybush MSC letter describes Hywel Dda’s plans to shake-up healthcare as diluted, because Bronglais Hospital, Aberystwyth and Prince Philip Hospital, Llanelli are both set to remain as general hospitals.

According to the letter, this would mean a merger of Glangwili and Withybush would be required to make the most of manpower and money available.

This, said the MSC, could mean the people of Pembrokeshire’s coastal communities would lose out on nearby, high-quality care if the new hospital was placed in Carmarthenshire.

The letter recommends placing the new hospital in Narberth, and says specialist services including paediatrics and obstetrics should be based there.

“The MSC firmly believe that the site of any new build should be based on population need not based on rules from respective Royal Colleges,” reads the letter.

It adds that senior staff and consultants could maintain the experience of their specialities by rotation through paediatrics and obstetrics centres outside the health board’s area.

Responding to the letter, Hywel Dda’s chief executive Steve Moore said: “We accept there will be some people anxious about the level of change and equally others who do not feel the recommendations go far enough in shifting the balance from hospitals to community.

“We believe the recommendations agreed represent significant change which recognises local need and gives us an opportunity to do much more in preventative and community care.”

He added a feasibility study would soon be underway about where the new hospital would be built between Narberth and St Clears.

“We cannot be more specific about a location until that work is underway but we will keep our staff and communities updated,” he said.

“This hospital will bring several services closer to our Pembrokeshire community than they are currently located.”

“I, along with our chair, will be meeting soon with Withybush MSC, who like other clinical groups have been involved in our transformation project, in order to discuss their views and keep them involved.”

A spokesperson for Pembrokeshire’s Community Health Council said the watchdog welcomed the Withybush MSC letter.

It said: “We feel that the views of MSC are similar to our own.”

The spokesperson added: “In terms of the setting for a new hospital, we have not seen any specific options yet.

“We look forward to seeing those options when they are ready and testing relevant recommendations from our commentary against them."

The CHC said it could not offer clinical advice about the placement of specialist care units, but finished by saying: “It will be a very complex picture but we know that safe, high quality care that is accessible to those who need it is paramount.”