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Last Updated: Thursday, 13 October 2005, 12:23 GMT 13:23 UK
Hospital fears over cash crisis
Brecon's Bronllys hospital
Brecon's Bronllys hospital is one of three under threat, says the CHC
A financial crisis could force the temporary closure of three community hospitals in Powys, a health watchdog has warned.

Brecon and Radnor Community Health Council (CHC) said hospitals in Llanidloes, Bronllys near Brecon, and Builth Wells could be affected as a "last resort".

Powys Local Health Board (LHB) must make savings of 6.9m by March 2006.

But it said every effort was being made to avoid shutting hospitals.

The CHC's chief officer Bryn Williams met the LHB's chief executive on Wednesday night to discuss the budget deficit.

He said that increased costs had eaten into the LHB's budget of about 165m.
Builth Wells
Hospitals in Llanidloes, Bronllys, near Brecon, and Builth Wells could close temporarily
Bryn Williams

The deficit stands at 6.9m, although health chiefs have already made savings of 5.5m.

He explained that new GP and consultants' contracts, new out-of-hours services, an increased drugs bill and extra money for the Royal Shrewsbury Hospital to treat Welsh patients, had all taken effect on the LHB's budget.

"The local health board is in financial difficulties and it is looking at ways of balancing its books by the end of the year," said Mr Williams.

"It has no immediate plans to close any hospital in Powys, but unless measures to save money do not balance the books then hospitals in Llanidloes, Bronllys, near Brecon, and Builth Wells could close temporarily.

"The LHB's chief executive Andy Williams stressed that this was a last resort". The health watchdog official added that he feared that there would be "no guarantee that hospitals will open again if they are closed temporarily".

The LHB's plans to save money included not replacing staff, but nurses are already in short supply in Powys.

Nurses in a ward (generic)
Powys LHB has also had problems recruiting nurses

Other measures include temporarily closing minor injuries units and other similar services, which had already happened at some hospitals in the county.

Bryn Williams said the LHB would meet to discuss ways of saving money on 20 October.

The LHB said every effort was being made to avoid the temporary closure of hospitals.

'Service restrictions'

A range of "cost reduction and income generation schemes" had been considered, it added.

A spokesman said: "Considerable progress has been made in identifying savings, but further potential savings have to be found.

"The options include a range of actions, designed to reduce costs including short-term rationalisation of beds."

He added: "The LHB wants to reassure the people of Powys that there are no plans at present to recommend the implementation of any of the options to the board of the LHB, although senior management remain concerned that the financial position within Powys is such that it may warrant short-term service restrictions."

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