The provision of adult neurosurgery in South Wales has been hugely controversial over the last few years after the Health Minister, Edwina Hart, rejected advice to close the unit at Swansea’s Morriston Hospital and focus services on the University Hospital of Wales in Cardiff.
You may remember she insisted that services continue to be provided in both cities as part of a ‘managed clinical network’. That divided opinion and proved difficult to sustain in the long term.
In a letter to AMs last week, week the Health Minister, effectively confirmed the two-city solution was no more and that neurosurgery was now focussed on a single site: Cardiff.
In that letter, she said,
The neurosurgery service is now fully integrated onto the University Hospital of Wales site, clinical staff have been transferred, new dedicated theatre facilities are fully operational and new ward facilities will become operational in January.
It means that despite more than four years of arguments between politicians, patients and neurosurgeons themselves, the final result is pretty much what was recommended in the rejected review from 2006.
But there are now questions about the service being provided in Cardiff.
The Conservative AM, Jonathan Morgan, says the picture painted by the minister doesn’t match what he’s been told.
In the Assembly chamber he said,
The Minister clearly stated in her letter that “staff have been transferred to the new site”.
However, as far as I am aware on the ground the picture is very different – two of the new neurosurgeons are not in post; one neurosurgeon who has recently retired will not be replaced; and one of the two interventional neuroradiologists left six months ago and there has been no effort to replace him.
This has led to significant pressures in the area of neuroradiology and has consequently meant that some interventional and emergency treatment has been moved to Bristol – a highly embarrassing situation for the Government, who sought with this review, to preventing this very thing from occurring.
He’s also written to the minister asking for ‘urgent clarification’.
I’ve asked the Health department for a response to Mr Morgan’s claims and I’ll update you as soon as I get it.