'It is a frightening situation'
LLANELLI health campaigners have hit out at a patients' watchdog, dubbing them "a toothless tiger".
Criticism was levelled at community health councils by Committee for the Improvement of Hospital Services chairman Bryan Hitchman after they supported plans to centralise services.
He accused the CHCs of becoming "more or less the mouthpiece of the local health boards".
Mr Hitchman, who is spearheading the fight to protect Prince Philip Hospital A&E department from being downgraded as part of a proposed reorganisation by Hywel Dda Health Board, said he believed the CHCs were doing what they had been told to do.
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"They are an absolute toothless tiger and are afraid to represent their communities. They do not listen to issues raised by patients."
His comments were sparked by a statement from Carol Lamyman-Davies, director of the Board of Community Health Councils in Wales, who appeared to back centralisation of services.
She said the recruitment of doctors was proving very costly.
"It's quite a frightening situation to be in," she said.
"There is use of agency and locum doctors to fill gaps in rota shortages and that's a costly way of dealing with urgent long-standing issues."
She said there were acute shortages facing emergency medicine, paediatrics and psychiatry in particular.
Ms Lamyman-Davies said health boards could improve matters by taking the opportunity of reorganisation to centralise certain treatments.
"What we need to see are safe, high quality sustainable services," she said.
But Mr Hitchman said: "We are losing our voice on the NHS.
"The very essence of denuding and centralising services is causing, in a way, a shortage of doctors because it's limiting the jobs.
"CHCs' voice has gone. It's just a one-way process of being told, essentially, this is what you are having, take it or leave it."