Consultation group hits back at local criticism
THE organisation tasked with managing public feedback on Hywel Dda's consultation into a shake-up of hospital services has spoken out to defend itself amid claims opposition to the changes was ignored.
Opinion Research Services (ORS) has slammed the Committee for the Improvement of Hospital Services (CIHS) as being "seriously misleading" after it condemned the health board's consultation process.
The campaign group said board members "listened, but did not hear" during its consultation, and that they "marginalised the population", in a document detailing four areas of complaint — timing, procedure, exclusion and safety.
CIHS chairman Bryan Hitchman said: "Almost a third of the population of the Hywel Dda area live in the Llanelli urban area and they have effectively been under-represented and totally misrepresented by the local health board.
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"The health board may have listened, but it is the opinion of many in Llanelli that it certainly did not hear the voice of the people, who stated that they are totally opposed to a nurse-led A&E."
But in response, ORS managing director Dale Hall, whose company analysed the public's response to proposed changes, said the CIHS was "entirely wrong" to say Llanelli had been marginalised, and has set out to correct each of the complaints.
"The random distribution of the household questionnaires matched the population of each county and area within Hywel Dda; and 18 per cent of the open questionnaires, and almost 20 per cent of the household survey responses, were received from the Llanelli area," he said.
"The questionnaires presented the issues fairly and ORS did not ignore local opposition to the health board's proposals, but reported it fully.
"No major responses were ignored and the petition to which the CIHS refers was fully reported during the earlier listening and engagement period."
And speaking for the health board, director of corporate services, Chris Wright, said he was confident its 12 month consultation process would stand up to scrutiny.
"We must be clear that consultation is not a referendum," he said.
"It is about telling the story in relation to the challenges we face and putting potential solutions in the public domain.
"We have to balance public views from across our three counties, as well as a multitude of views from doctors, nurses, allied health professionals and from experts both within and outside the health board.
"We recognise any change may not be the popular decision but we would never put forward unsafe solutions to issues we are facing."
For the full document listing CIHS's concerns, visit www.SOSPPAN.co.uk.