Beth Webster, Cardiff West Socialist Party
“That was challenging and uncomfortable” – the Cardiff and Vale Health Board chief executive’s closing remark at a public engagement meeting on NHS cuts in Barry, South Wales.
The health board proposes moving care out of acute hospitals and into the community by replacing rehabilitation wards like the Sam Davies with a 48-hour short-stay ward, and then discharging patients home to await assessment for further community care.
But with the chronic shortage of community services, people will inevitably bounce back into acute hospital beds, also already under immense pressure.
After an hour’s presentation from the health board, which one attendee described as “like being sold a timeshare,” attendees had to revolt to force an open discussion and allow the full extent of opposition to be heard.
There was widespread anger at the health board’s whitewashing of bed cuts as an ‘improvement’ to elderly people’s services. One of the senior clinicians supporting the plan attempted to justify bed cuts by saying that “having beds creates demand”!
Also highlighted at the meeting was the shocking treatment of the Sam Davies staff: the health boards have scarcely engaged with them or their union, Unison. The health board has said only that workers are “likely” to find jobs at other hospitals, despite the distance on infrequent and expensive public transport.
Sam Davies staff, with support from Unison, have launched a petition, signed by around 10,000 people so far. There was a march and rally in Barry on 5 October.
As said in the meeting, the health board should be fighting for more funding from the Welsh Government to improve services rather than close them.
That health board executives on six-figure salaries can tell communities like Barry they can no longer afford vital NHS services and staff is an absolute disgrace.
Nothing highlights more clearly the necessity of health workers and communities running the NHS under public ownership and democratic control – and the support a health union-led campaign to reverse NHS cuts would have across Wales.