Page last updated at 10:25 GMT, Wednesday, 16 July 2008 11:25 UK

Neurology unit within five years

Complex neurosurgery will continue to be carried out at Walton

Neurosurgery patients in north Wales will continue to receive treatment in Liverpool, Health Minister Edwina Hart has confirmed.

The minister also revealed that a neurology centre is to be built in the region within the next five years.

Ms Hart accepted the recommendations made by consultant neurosurgeon James Steers in a report commissioned by the Welsh Assembly Government.

Neurosurgery patients had feared a four hour journey to south Wales for care.

But the recommendations mean patients will now continue to receive treatment at the Walton Centre for Neurology and Neurosurgery in Liverpool.

Location map
Patients will receive treatment in Liverpool and follow-up care at three units

Mr Steers' report was commissioned as part of a review into services.

In it, he recommends that patients should continue to receive planned and emergency neurosurgery at regional specialist centres in England, such as Walton.

However, he also recommended that follow-up treatment be available at centres throughout north Wales.

A north Wales Neurology Service will be based at Ysbyty Glan Clwyd, Bodelwyddan, Denbighshire with enhanced services at Ysbyty Gwynedd in Bangor, Gwynedd, and Wrexham's Maelor Hospital.

In addition, an inpatient neurorehabilitation centre should be established, as well as non-complex spinal surgery services, he said.

Mr Steers added: "Over the last year, I have talked to a wide range of professionals, organisations and patient groups, and reviewed the available evidence and data in coming up with a series of recommendations to provide patients with access to the best care - whether that be in Wales or England.

My aim was always to improve services for patients in North Wales. This report does that
Edwina Hart, Health Minister

"Following my evaluation, I believe that there is scope to bring many services currently provided in England, closer to people in north Wales, and still maintain high-quality, safe and effective treatment.

"However, given the complexities of neurosurgery, the group felt that this was best kept at the respected Walton Centre in Liverpool."

Accepting the recommendations, Edwina Hart said: "I am pleased to receive Mr Steers report which clearly sets out how I can improve services for patients.


One patient welcomes the new centre

"I have now asked the Health and Social Services North Wales Regional Office to co-ordinate the development of a costed implementation plan for these recommendations.

"These should be implemented within five years so that patients can start to receive more and improved services locally, reducing the need to travel."

She added: "Many said that people would be compelled to travel to south Wales for this life-saving treatment.

"My aim was always to improve services for patients in north Wales. This report does that."

The North Wales Group of Labour Assembly Members welcomed the recommendations.

Carl Sergeant, AM for Alyn & Deeside AM, said: "As promised by Edwina Hart last year, our views and those of patients groups, were put directly to Mr Steers and as a result, he has delivered this forward-looking set of proposals."

Jenny Randerson AM, Welsh Lib Dem health spokeswoman, welcomed the news but said: "The big question now is how the minister will pay for these improved services in north Wales.

"The costed implementation plan will hopefully provide these difficult calculations."

Clwyd West AM Darren Millar said it was "just plain common sense" that north Wales patients have access to expert treatment on their doorstep.

Clwyd West MP David Jones said it had been an "utter humiliation" for the health minister, after her original announcement last July "caused such anxiety to so many people in north Wales".

He added: "Mrs Hart, with her south Wales perspective, clearly didn't anticipate the massive backlash she experienced from people in north Wales, who value the area's links with centres of excellence such as Walton, Alder Hey, Christie's and Gobowen".

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