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24 September 2008

Health Trust concessions on Swansea casualty unit

DESPITE HUGE concerns and demands for an open public debate, Swansea Community Health Council (CHC) has voted by five votes to two to deny a 12-week public consultation over plans to change Swansea's minor casualty unit at Singleton Hospital into a GP led service.

Alec Thraves, Swansea Socialist Party

NHS campaigners, with Swansea Socialist Party members to the fore, argued that these proposals were part of the ongoing downgrade of the unit and were being bulldozed through, without public consultation, in a matter of weeks.

The Trust management had reportedly confirmed to a local councillor that they 'had never won a public consultation before'!

At the CHC meeting the Trust said government policies were responsible for the acute shortage of appropriate staff to cover the unit.

They claimed that recent regular closures of the casualty meant it was 'unsafe' and threatened the CHC with complete closure if their proposals were not accepted.

This 'pistol to the head' approach obviously affected the decision not to let the public, patients and staff scrutinise more closely the Trust's proposals. Their decision will, as one CHC member remarked, "only add to the perception that this move is just another step towards the complete closure of the unit in the future".

However, even our relatively short campaign has resulted in the Trust modifying and improving its original proposals.

Instead of the 24-hour minor casualty service being replaced by just a 12-hour, daytime GP-led service with no non-appointment provision between 8pm and 8am, the unit will now remain open as a 24-hour service.

Unlike the original proposal, there will be no patients turned away during the night. It will now operate between 10pm and 8am as a 'walk-in' service as well as an appointment, GP out of hours service.

Singleton staff, the CHC and health campaigners will be monitoring the unit closely to ensure the service promised is delivered and that its long-term future is guaranteed.