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Last Updated: Friday, 5 October 2007, 09:41 GMT 10:41 UK
'Scaremongering' claim on surgery
Doctors and nurses in operating theatre surgery performing an operation
Neurosurgery services in north Wales will be under discussion
Health Minister Edwina Hart says any suggestion that a decision has been made on moving north Wales neurology services is "pure scaremongering".

A public meeting in Colwyn Bay has been called by Tory MP David Jones to focus on "huge disquiet" over the idea.

But Ms Hart told him she will not be there on Friday night because it has been called on a "false premise".

She said no decision has been made on plans for patients to travel to Swansea or Cardiff rather than Liverpool.

Clwyd West MP Mr Jones said he expected about 150 people in Colwyn Bay town hall, with health officials on hand to answer questions.

In Wales, adult neurosurgery is carried out in both Cardiff and Swansea, but patients from north Wales travel to the Walton Centre for Neurology and Neurosurgery in Liverpool for treatment.

Mr Jones said about 600 in-patients from north Wales were treated there each year, as well as a larger number of out-patients.

Edwina Hart
The minister [pictured] does recognise the strength of feeling over neurosurgery. But let's be clear, no decision has been made on the future provision of neurosurgery services in north Wales
Welsh Assembly Government statement

He said the trip from north Wales to Liverpool by car would take patients about 90 minutes, which was preferable to a five-hour car trip from Colwyn Bay to Swansea. "This is not an all-Wales solution," he added.

Journeys to Cardiff or Swansea would not only affect the patients but their families, he said.

In 2006, plans to create a single service in Cardiff were announced after a Health Commission Wales report.

It recommended the service be centralised in Cardiff, but Ms Hart put controversial plans to shut the specialist unit in Swansea on hold in July after a high-profile campaign.

Travel costs

At the time, Aberconwy Plaid Cymru AM Gareth Jones asked whether there was an alternative to having two specialist centres in south Wales.

He suggested that a location somewhere like Llandudno would be ideally situated for patients in north Wales.

But Ms Hart has said she wanted to make sure as many non-emergency operations as possible were done in Cardiff and Swansea, warning that Wales could lose part of its service unless best use was made of it.

A panel which will look at a scheme to pay patients' travel costs is due to report back in October.

The assembly government has now said Ms Hart has written to Mr Jones to tell him that she will not be at the meeting.

"The minister does recognise the strength of feeling over neurosurgery," said a statement.

"But let's be clear, no decision has been made on the future provision of neurosurgery services in north Wales.

"Any suggestion that there has been, would be pure scaremongering. Arrangements stand as they currently are."

"An independent review into the future of neurosurgery in Wales is being set up and is to be chaired by Mr James Steers, a consultant neurosurgeon based in Edinburgh."

The assembly government added: "This is a difficult and sensitive issue and one in which we all need to work together to find a solution that is in the best interests of patients and health professionals."

The meeting is at Colwyn Bay town hall at 1900 BST on Friday.



SEE ALSO
Major NHS shake-up 'to cut costs'
18 Jul 07 |  South West Wales
Neurosurgery rethink accusations
09 Nov 06 |  South West Wales
AMs' plea to keep Swansea surgery
13 Oct 06 |  South West Wales

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