18 March 2015
Article by Elfyn Henderson, National Assembly for Wales Research Service
Today (18 March) the Assembly will be debating temporary changes to maternity services in north Wales.
Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board (BCUHB) is suspending consultant-led maternity care at Glan Clwyd Hospital in Bodelwyddan for at least 12 months, while it addresses staffing issues.
On 10 February BCUHB agreed a report that recommended temporarily concentrating consultant-led maternity care in north Wales in two 24/7 centres – Ysbyty Gwynedd, in Bangor, and Wrexham Maelor Hosptal – leaving only a midwife-led unit in Glan Clwyd. The new arrangements will take effect from 6 April.
BCUHB is taking these steps because of concerns about medical staffing levels and the potential impact on patient safety and clinical standards. It says there’s a lack of suitably trained and qualified doctors making it difficult to recruit sufficient numbers to provide a safe service. Consequently, there’s a high reliance on agency and locum staff.
On 13 February the Minister for Health and Social Services, Mark Drakeford, wrote to BCUHB seeking assurances about its decision and asking for an independent assessment of the situation.
BCUHB replied on 18 February saying the arrangements would be in place for a maximum of 18 months. BCUHB also said the decision doesn’t impact on plans for the new Sub Regional Neonatal Intensive Care Centre (SuRNIC) planned for Glan Clwyd from 2017/18 onwards.
Previously, on 13 May 2014, the First Minister, Carwyn Jones, had announced that the new SuRNIC for north Wales would be located at Glan Clwyd. The announcement was made following the recommendations of an independent panel set up to look into the issue.
The Chief Nursing Officer for Wales, Professor Jean White, and the Deputy Chief Medical Officer for Wales, Dr Chris Jones, carried out the independent assessment of BCUHB’s decision. They concluded that they could ‘…identify no alternative to the current proposal which is … temporarily reducing the number of sites for obstetric led maternity services from 3 to 2.’ They wrote to the First Minister and Minister for Health and Social Services on 6 March outlining their conclusions.
BCUHB has more information about the decision on its website: