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Monday, 29 April, 2002, 08:01 GMT 09:01 UK
Doctors attack new hospital plan
Singleton Hospital
Consultants call for a children's hospital in Swansea
Three senior hospital doctors from south Wales are claiming the planned new children's hospital for Wales will provide no extra services for sick youngsters.

A walk across Wales by former cricketer Ian Botham has just raised the profile of the hospital plan and raised hundreds of thousands of pounds for the public appeal to help build the hospital.

Ian Botham finishes his fundraising walk in Cardiff
The Swansea leg of Botham's trek raised the most money

But three consultant paediatricians at Swansea's Singleton Hospital have said they fear the money raised by the charity walk could disappear into "a black hole".

They have written to the Welsh Assembly to voice their concerns.

Dr Dewi Evans, a consultant in paediatric diabetes at the Swansea hospital, said they welcomed the "new build" which is planned for Cardiff's University Hospital of Wales and their concerns had nothing to do with rivalry between Swansea and Cardiff.

The appeal to build first new wards and accommodation and then new surgical facilities for youngsters at the Cardiff hospital was launched two years ago with the aim of raising 5m.

The assembly later stepped in to offer match funding for the appeal, which has attracted celebrity patrons Catherine Zeta Jones and Charlotte Church.

The international stars both showed their support by taking part in the final stage of Botham's walk.

Heart surgery

However, Dr Evans said he and his colleagues were very worried that specialist services for children would continue to be concentrated on Cardiff.

Children in Wales requiring heart surgery would still have to travel to Bristol, and those requiring neurosurgery would have to go even further to London, he said.

He added that a children's hospital for Swansea was also needed.

"We are particularly concerned that concentrating the resources for children will mean less money being spent on children's services in north Wales and west Wales," he said.

"There has been money allocated to the University Hospital of Wales before - money which has gone into a black hole," said Dr Evans.

Catherine Zeta Jones and Charlotte Church
Catherine Zeta Jones and Charlotte Church joined in

He added that he did not see why there could not be several centres of excellence for children's services across Wales - much as there was in England.

The paediatrician has been joined in raising his concerns to the Welsh Assembly's health committee chairperson Kirsty Williams by Dr Cathy White, a consultant paediatric neurologist, and Dr Geraint Morris.

Dr White said she was angered by a public relations machine which implied that children will no longer have to go out of Wales for treatment.

But Philip Carling from the Noah's Ark Appeal - which is raising the funds for the new hospital - said the organisation fully supported of plans for more children's services right across Wales.

"It will never be the case that any hospital will be able to treat every critical illness or condition - or there will never be the need for children to go outside Wales for hospital treatment."

Mr Carling said the present row detracted from the enormous efforts made by Ian Botham to promote the cause.

Ironically, the leg of the walk through Swansea had raised the most money of all on the former cricketer's trek.

A Welsh Assembly spokesman said they had not yet received the consultants' letter - but their concerns would be treated very seriously.

BBC Wales's Susie Phillips
"The Noah's Ark Appeal has fired the public's imagination"
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