'Unique opportunity' to give quality care in the future
CHANGES to the way health services are delivered in Swansea and the rest of South Wales are inevitable if high quality care is to be provided in the years ahead.
That was the unequivocal message from a senior Abertawe Bro Morgannwg University Health Board official who hailed it as a unique opportunity that had to be seized.
Sweeping changes are being suggested in ABMU's Changing For The Better (C4B) "vision of the future" and the wider South Wales Programme. This has been running in parallel with C4B and overlaps with it in parts. At the moment they are only potential scenarios which will be discussed with residents, staff and others during a 12-week engagement process running from now until December.
ABMU will use the feedback to help it shape firmer proposals for change, which will then go out for formal consultation.
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Board vice-chairman Ed Roberts said: "I see this as a unique opportunity. I have never seen a change like this previously.
"I've seen small changes but it's always been about fiddling with the edges. This is much more significant and it absolutely has to happen otherwise we are not going to be able to provide the care in the future that we would aspire to, that we want to and which we know needs to happen."
Potential changes include shifting maternity and other services for mums and babies from Singleton to Morriston.
Another could see a South Wales-wide major trauma service for people suffering multiple serious injuries developed either at Morriston or Cardiff's University Hospital of Wales — or possibly shared between the two sites.
Morriston will also be one of a handful of South Wales regional centres offering a full range of high-level services.
Meanwhile, Singleton could lose obstetrics (childbirth and the treatment of women before and after childbirth) and neonatal (newborn babies) intensive care to Morriston. However, it is already seeing some of its services expanded. It could also see other services moved there from Morriston to accommodate Morriston's expanded role. That said, ABMU has questioned whether it could continue Singleton's acute medical service for GP referrals, partly because of doctor recruitment problems.
Neath Port Talbot Hospital has lost its acute medical services for that very reason. It would not be directly affected by any of the possible changes, though it too could take on some of the work currently handled by Morriston.
The future status of Bridgend's Princess of Wales Hospital is uncertain, depending on whether it gets regional centre status.
If not, it will still continue to provide many services but complex care would be provided at a regional location.
Dr Roberts said: "This isn't going to be easy or palatable. There will have to be some very hard decisions made across South Wales, for the population and for the professionals working within these systems. We have to grasp the situation and move forward."
ABMU chairman Win Griffiths added: "We want to emphasise that the main driver behind this is the need for us to provide consistently safe, high-quality services, bearing in mind the resources constraints — the biggest of which, you could argue, is staff. We want our services to be sustainable. We want fewer deaths and fewer incidents of unnecessary harm. That is the idea."
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