Agenda item

QUESTION BY CHARLIE EVANS TO COUNCILLOR DARREN PRICE, LEADER OF THE COUNCIL

"Under plans for the new Urgent and Planned Care Hospital, Hywel Dda University Health Board projects that 68% of Glangwili General Hospital's workforce will be transferred to the new hospital. This equates to 2,625 members of staff, based on 2022 numbers. Glangwili Hospital is one of Carmarthen's biggest employers.

Given the Council has responsibilities for our towns, what impact do you believe this will have on Carmarthen town?"

 

Minutes:

"Under plans for the new Urgent and Planned Care Hospital, Hywel Dda University Health Board projects that 68% of Glangwili General Hospital's workforce will be transferred to the new hospital. This equates to 2,625 members of staff, based on 2022 numbers. Glangwili Hospital is one of Carmarthen's biggest employers. Given the Council has responsibilities for our towns, what impact do you believe this will have on Carmarthen town?"

 

Response by Councillor Darren Price, Leader of the Council:-

 

Thank you Mr. Evans. As you are aware, the decision to restructure hospital care in South West Wales will of course be one that will be taken by the Health Board, and ultimately, if approved, funded by the Welsh Government. Clearly you have an obvious interest in this topic, I would suggest that it might be worth your while engaging directly with the Health Board on the matter.

 

However, this is an issue that is clearly of interest to the local population, as Glangwili has been, and will continue to be, an important part of the fabric of the townIndeed local elected members in Carmarthen have long campaigned to both retain and develop Glangwili Hospitalin fact, the campaign to do so was launched and led by local Plaid Cymru councillors in the towntwo whom are now Cabinet members, and are sat in the chamber this morning.

 

When news of the proposed hospital reorganisation broke in March 2018, Cllr Alun Lenny, the then Town Mayor, called a public meeting and organised an on-line petition which attracted over 5,000 names in a very short time. This was supported by all parties on the Plaid-led Town Council.  

 

Cllr Gareth John was then tasked by the Plaid Cymru group on the county council to prepare a detailed response to the consultation by Hywel Dda Health Board into the transformation of clinical services. As a result, in June 2018, a 14-page detailed response was submitted to the Board. In arguing the case for Glangwili, it pointed out that almost half (48%) of the population in the Health Board area live in Carmarthenshire, and Glangwili is located very close to the centre of the county.

 

Indeed, only last year, Plaid Cymru town Councillors in Carmarthen and the Senedd Member Adam Price called on the Health Board to protect services, and A&E provision at Glangwili, as part of any reorganisation of healthcare within South West Wales.  

 

However, as you are aware, we now find ourselves in a situation whereby the Health Board is considering 3 sites for the new planned and urgent care hospital which sit outside Carmarthen town, albeit the proposed sites do sit within the county boundary.

 

I understand that the Health Board are required, and are planning, to undertake further work, to better understand the economic impact of their proposed changes to hospital configuration as part of the business case process, and we are happy to support that work.

I would however suggest that you would be better placed asking the Health Board on the business case process that they face, but clearly the Health Board’s primary focus is on providing clinical services.

It is important to point out that during a recent consultative session, elected members from across the county were able to raise issues with the Heath Board concerning the proposed changes. There are clearly questions in terms of transport, housing and economic opportunities and threats that we are keen to address.

 

However, I would say that I feel that modelling any economic impact,on Carmarthen town in particular, with any degree of certainty is going to be difficult, as much of the analysis will depend on trying to understand where health board staff currently live, where the future workforce in 5 or 10 years time will be living, commuting patterns, the shopping and spending habits of individual employees and a whole host of other factors, which are really difficult to pin down without a combination of robust quantitative and qualitative data – which of course will change over time.

 

As you will appreciate, Carmarthen town centre is very important to the County Council. However, Carmarthen and indeed other towns and villages are not the sole responsibility of the Local Authority. Indeed, each town is made up of a blend of key stakeholders including the business sector, voluntary sector, town council and a range of public bodies such as the Local Health Board, University, local authority, schools, and colleges with each settlement being individually distinct.

 

As a local authority we recognise the importance of Carmarthen Town Centre and of course invest resources to work collectively, to galvanise stakeholders and resources to make Carmarthen as successful as possible, and regardless of the final decision on the future hospital provision in South West Wales, that work will continue.

 

Supplementary question by Mr. Charlie Evans:-

 

“Is the position of the Cabinet currently that Glangwili Hospital should be a general hospital or a community hospital as planned for by the Health Board.”

 

Response by Councillor Darren Price, Leader of the Council, to the supplementary question:-

 

“As I mentioned in my answer to the first question members from across the chamber, regardless of whether they are Cabinet members or non-executive members, had the opportunity to engage directly with the Health Board only last month on the plans. As you are fully aware the Council as a corporate body has not made formal representations in terms of the proposed sites that the Health Board are currently consulting on. As I set out in the initial answer my party, and I can speak on behalf of Plaid Cymru, was certainly of the view that Glangwili should be protected in its current form and developed as an acute setting with the provision of Accident and Emergency services as an integral part of that. But as I mentioned that ship has sailed and the Health Board has made a decision, its not for us to make a decision, that the three sites that are currently up for consultation are the preferred options from their perspective and I would urge members of the public to feed into that process. But clearly ultimately this is a decision for the Health Board and not the County Council. As a member living on the eastern side of the county in Gorslas clearly I would want to see all services provided as closely as possible to my doorstep and that’s certainly the view that was expressed to the Health Board in the session that we had a few weeks ago. Members to the east of the county, as I mentioned to you in the last Cabinet meeting, and in areas such as Llanelli, have clear concerns with regards to access times, whether the new hospital is situated in Whitland or St. Clears. But at the same time I’m mindful with my conversations with colleagues in Pembrokeshire that there are similar concerns on the western flank of that county. When we talk to representatives in the area of Fishguard and St. David’s there are clearly concerns there that any shift east towards Carmarthen will have an impact on access times in those areas. So I think what’s important is the history and as I mentioned and this has been an ongoing discussion and campaign for over 5 years now, I appreciate that your questions that have come in to Cabinet over the past 2 months but the number of members in this chamber and outside this chamber have been campaigning on this for quite some time. The notion that Glangwili can provide full A and E services and maintain the services that it currently provides has gone because the Health Board has not provided that option. From my perspective the key issue here is that we try and protect as many services as we can locally and ensure that there is safe access to services for the people of Carmarthenshire. I do note that in the presentation that was provided by the Health Board the strategy that they currently propose has been developed by clinicians and I know that the Tory Party are keen to ensure that professionals, be it teachers or doctors and nurses, are at the vanguard of that and leading change within their specific sectors and that has been the strong message that has come from the Health Board that this Plan is based on clinical need and has been put forward by clinicians and I think it is incumbent on all of us to take on board that view and to try and process that information and make sense in terms of how that pans out then for services across the county. But as I have mentioned on a number of occasions to you as this is a Health Board decision I would respectfully suggest that you engage with the Health Board on this matter and I am sure they would be more than happy to do so.”