Page last updated at 17:20 GMT, Thursday, 18 September 2008 18:20 UK

New 'solution' for neurosurgery

MRI head scan
Initial proposals to close Swansea's neurosurgery unit sparked protest

A new clinical network should be created so neurosurgery can be carried out in both Cardiff and Swansea, a fresh review has recommended.

In 2006, a report said complex surgery should be undertaken only in Cardiff, and experts were then asked to find a way to keep both sites going.

The new network would see specialist staff working at the two sites, keeping both of them open.

Health Minister Edwina Hart has set up an implementation group for the plans.

Independent review author James Steers said a single neurosurgery service for south and west Wales should be urgently developed.

His report says that the new service should redress the deficiencies of the current two units in Cardiff and Swansea.

The review recommends that a network of four medical neurology units be developed in south Wales - in Cardiff, Newport, Swansea and Carmarthen with non-complex spinal surgery available at Cardiff and Swansea.

Campaign

In 2006, a review by Health Commission Wales recommended that complex surgery should be carried out on just one site - Cardiff's University Hospital of Wales - and that keeping two sites would be unsustainable.

But plans to close the neurosurgery unit at Morriston Hospital in Swansea were put on hold after a high profile campaign.

In July 2007, Mrs Hart said she would ask an expert group to recommend a way of keeping surgery on both sites.

That group, led by consultant neurosurgeon Mr Steers, has recommended the new managed clinical network for neurosciences, similar to that for cardiac and cancer services.

It would see specialist staff working on both sites, which would ensure the volume of patients and quality of service to keep both sites open.

But Mr Steers also lays down strict criteria for the supporting facilities for each site, including a critical care unit and specialist paediatric critical care.

The minister said his report provided a "useful basis to plan the delivery of an improved neuroscience service to mid and south Wales".

The implementation group will decide on how to proceed with the changes.

The release of the first part of Mr Steers' report in July said that patients in north Wales will be able to continue to access services at Liverpool's Walton Hospital.

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