DOCTORS in Cardigan say services at the town's hospital are being downgraded in a number of ways.

The latest development is that from August 7 there will be no doctors to cover the Minor Injuries Unit, which will become nurse led.

The future viability of this and other departments, such as X-ray, could be in doubt, according to the GPs at Cardigan Health Centre.

They say that the recent reduction of in-patient beds is causing great difficulties; and inadequate nurse staffing levels often mean that full bed capacity is not being met anyway.

The doctors believe that the strategy of the county's NHS Trust to develop healthcare services in the Cardigan area "must be questioned" in the light of the latest developments.

And they add: "The Trust has ostracised the health centre practice. They have reduced patient services and are making very slow progress towards any new hospital build."

Dr Roger Cole and his four GP colleagues at the health centre are raising their concerns this week with the Community Health Council, Local Health Board, AM Elin Jones and MP Mark Williams.

"It is with regret that we find ourselves in the position of having to make such comments," they state in their letter.

Practice manager Sandra Esau told the Tivy-Side: "The doctors thought very long and hard before going public with these concerns but they believe we are in a very serious situation."

The doctors are on call for the hospital's Minor Injuries Unit from 9am-5pm Monday to Friday. They have now been told by the NHS Trust that their services will not be required there after August 7. The unit is to be nurse-led with telemedicine back-up from Bronglais and there will be no local GP input.

The doctors say this will mean that many casualties with minor injuries will have to travel to district general hospitals, such as Glangwili in Carmarthen for treatment.

"This action would in our opinion make the closure of the minor injuries unit easier in the future," they say.

The GPs say that the decision to reduce beds at Cardigan Hospital from 25 to 21 has been made at a time when admission to local district general hospitals has "never been more difficult".

The doctors also state: "It is well known that the accommodation in the current health centre is inadequate and struggles to meet recognised legal standards for disabled patients."

They add that if they had not allied their practice to the combined project to build a new hospital, they may already be practising from new premises and providing more services to patients.

"It is now over three years since the community project for a new hospital was initiated. There is still no formal business plan," they write.

* Ceredigion and Mid Wales NHS Trust is considering its response to the GPs' letter but its comments were not available to meet the Tivy-Side's press deadline yesterday (Monday).