A NEW option for the future of health services in west Wales that gives equal status to the region's three main hospitals has been proposed this week.

The two schemes so far put forward by health chiefs and used as the basis for public consultation have "serious flaws", says Ceredigion Community Health Council.

"The people of Pembrokeshire have vehemently rejected both options and in Ceredigion there is overwhelming evidence that there needs to be a third option presented to the people," says the CHC in a document published this week to support "Option C".

Responding to the recent Designed to Deliver' consultation, the CHC adds: "What the people of Pembrokeshire and Ceredigion cannot accept is the huge centralising theme of the document."

As part of a reorganisation of acute services in mid and west Wales health authorities have proposed two options for the Dyfed area - to develop a new hospital midway between Carmarthen and Haverfordwest, with Bronglais as a linked district general hospital.

Withybush and the existing West Wales General would then close; or to upgrade West Wales General at Carmarthen and make it the main acute site. Bronglais and Withybush would operate as linked district general hospitals.

Both options have been widely interpreted as "downgrading" the roles of Bronglais and Withybush.

In a letter to Ceredigion Local Health Board chief executive Derrick Jones, CHC chairman Jack Evershed requests that a new consultation document be produced to include the "third option".

He says this would enable the authorities to gather "a truer and more positive reflection of the public's view".

In Option C the CHC is proposing that Bronglais, Glangwili and Withybush hospitals should have equal status and work in a network, each with some specialised services.

"The CHC feels this would be a more popular option and would share expertise more fairly around the region," said CHC chief officer, Monica Williams.

The CHC is also suggesting that the area's NHS Trust and Local Health Board should be merged into one authority, rather than forming one Dyfed-wide Trust to manage the acute hospitals, which would "disadvantage the residents of Ceredigion".

Ceredigion AM Elin Jones has welcomed the CHC's publication of the possible third option.

Full details of the CHC's "Option C" are available on the organisation's website: www.patienthelp.wales.nhs.uk/ceredigion