August 20, 2008

Health Boss ‘Planning to Shut Down Casualty Unit’

By Liz Perkins

A Health boss is preparing to fly in the face of public opinion by shutting a Swansea hospital's minor casualty unit without consultation, it is feared.

Campaigning Swansea councillor June Stanton said Calum Campbell, assistant chief executive (west) of Abertawe Bro Morgannwg University NHS Trust, pledged to take the step during a private meeting.

She has raised fears people's health would be placed at risk under plans to downgrade the department by replacing it with a GP- led service.

Campaigners are now writing in protest to Assembly Health Minister Edwina Hart over the shake-up scheme.

If it goes ahead, it would introduce skeleton staffing of the unit, with just one doctor and a nurse, operating it as a GP surgery between 8am and 8pm.

But from 8pm onwards the department would be closed, and doctors would only be available at the Singleton site through the out-of- hours service.

Former nurse Councillor Stanton, who is also vice-chairwoman of Swansea Council's Health, Social Care and Well Being Scrutiny Board, said: "Calum Campbell said if there was a move to go to public consultation he would go straight to the board and tell them the unit was not safe and it would be closed immediately.

"It has never happened before, even with Fairwood Hospital and Hill House Hospital there was a full consultation.

"This plan is going to affect people's health and well-being, and I feel there should be a public consultation for people to be aware of what is going on."

She added: "I would refute the statement that the unit is unsafe, the nurses are very capable in their field.

"I am concerned, by the middle of September or October at the latest it will be a done deal."

The talks were held in a seminar room at Singleton Hospital on August 4, to outline the trust's safety fears over the unit following a doctor shortage.

Concerns have existed for some time the casualty department would be axed.

Sandra Owen, chief officer of Swansea Community Health Council, confirmed a presentation of the plans had been made but said members were yet to make a decision.

In a statement Calum Campbell said: "I am keen to stress that we are committed to providing a service at Singleton, and I have reiterated this at all our meetings and conversations with our partners.

"I have attempted to set out the risks to the service and my commitment to making it safe and sustainable in the long-term.

"However, through our discussions, and the feedback we've received from our clinical staff, it is clear that the current service is not safe and sustainable as it stands.

"We are regularly left with no choice but to close the unit at various times, particularly at night, because no doctor is available, and that situation cannot be allowed to continue indefinitely.

"One option being looked at is working with the GPs to provide a safe and regular service at Singleton. Nothing has been decided yet."

(c) 2008 South Wales Evening Post. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All rights Reserved.