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Last Updated: Thursday, 7 June 2007, 08:05 GMT 09:05 UK
Caution as health plans 'on hold'
Health demonstration
Hospital reorganisation proposals prompted protests
Campaigners and opposition politicians have given a cautious welcome to the announcement that Welsh hospital re-organisation has been put on hold.

Some hospitals were due to be closed and services centralised under Labour proposals for "reconfiguration", a big issue in the assembly election.

But health service managers said "the tide of change" could not be stopped.

First Minister Rhodri Morgan said the announcement was "an olive branch" to other parties to find a way forward.

Mr Morgan wrote letters to Plaid Cymru and the Liberal Democrats in which he revealed Labour's intentions to review its hospital plans.

In the letter, Mr Morgan also said that his government would undertake that already agreed changes in district general hospitals would not be implemented until associated community services were in place.

The fact is that we cannot hold back the tide of change
Mike Ponton, Welsh NHS Confederation

Speaking on Thursday morning, Mr Morgan said changes to the health service needed to be made to give the Welsh public medical services for the 21st century.

However he said people might need to see "services being brought closer to their home before they will accept some of the services have to move further from home".

"This is a problem facing health administrations all over the western world," he said.

"We cannot live in Wales with second class hospital services."

He added that he did not think there had been a time in Welsh politics when "olive branches had been held out so extensively" to opposition parties to discuss an issue.

Helen Mary Jones
Helen Mary Jones said a full consultation was needed

Plaid health spokeperson Helen Mary Jones said she hoped the announcement was more than just "a stay of execution" and she was happy to take on the challenge of working with Labour on the issue.

"It is particularly crucial they have acknowledged people won't accept changes to hospital services until they can see services in the community to take their place," she said.

Nick Bourne, leader of the Welsh Conservaties, said he needed some more answers over any reorganisation.

"If it's simply we're having a pause and then coming back with it, that's not good enough," he added.

Hope

Campaigner Jean Daniels, who is hoping to keep Abergele hospital in Conwy open, said the announcement gave them hope.

Community leaders hoping to save HM Stanley hospital at St Asaph from closure said they hoped the review would lead to threatened services at the hospital, which include eye treatment, being retained.

But Linda Groom, from the Llandudno Hospital action group which is campaigning to retain coronary and acute services there, warned that the moratorium could simply delay the inevitable.

The Welsh NHS Confederation - which represents health service management - said Mr Morgan was right to review its proposals so that community services could be put in place.

But Mike Ponton, director of the confederation, said any pause in the process of change would have to be short to ensure the delivery of 21st century care to the people of Wales.

"The fact is that we cannot hold back the tide of change," he said.

And health expert Professor Marcus Longley said the NHS in Wales could not afford to continue as it is now.


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