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Last Updated: Wednesday, 22 November 2006, 15:29 GMT
Bed-push GPs join health protest
The start of the bed push. Photo: Talgarth Medical Centre
The push covered 56 miles over minor mountain roads
Five family doctors who pushed a bed 50 miles from Powys to Cardiff joined a rally outside the Welsh assembly opposing cuts at community hospitals.

The GPs began the push from Bronllys Hospital, near Brecon, early on Tuesday in protest at planned NHS service cuts.

Four hospitals in Powys, including Bronllys, have been earmarked for cuts by Powys Local Health Board (LHB).

Around 300 people travelled from as far afield as Blaenau Ffestiniog, Swansea, Prestatyn and Tregaron.

They were opposing proposed cutbacks in services or beds in hospitals across Wales.

The action group Chant (Community Hospitals Acting Nationally Together) claims many more smaller hospitals throughout Wales are under threat.

Powys LHB is facing a 3.5m deficit and has suggested cutting services at Llanidloes, Knighton, Bronllys and Builth Wells hospitals.

'Policy'

The bed push was led by Dr James Wrench, based at a surgery in Talgarth, which combined with a practice in Hay-on-Wye, covers a rural area of approximately 450 square miles.

Dr Wrench also works on the 24-bed GP-run ward at Bronllys hospital. He said the ward had 32 beds when he started there six years ago.

Builth Wells hospital (picture: Builth and Llanwrtyd Medical Practice)
Builth is one of four community hospitals facing cuts

He said: "I believe very strongly that the beds in Powys are preserved and not closed as we're planning.

Dr Pete Howard, who joined the bed-push for the last few miles, told Radio Wales that campaigners recognised that Powys LHB had inherited a cash deficit.

He said local GP has discussed service changes with the board but had not yet received answers to how closing beds at the hospitals would save money or how much money would be saved.

He said there had "complete silence" to the campaign's request to meet Welsh Health Minister, Brian Gibbons.

He said: "We'd like to meet the minister to ask him if this is Welsh assembly policy, to put local health board in a position where they have no alternative other than closing beds which are, by and large, full and being used well.

'Treatments'

As GPs, we have no problems with development and changes. What we're representing though is that change has to be invested in, in the sense that there should not be cut backs."

In response, Powys LHB chief executive Andy Williams said he understood people's concerns.

"However it is important to remember that we have modernised a range of services in recent years with great success," he said.

"Our duty is to continue to provide the right services and treatments to meet the changing needs and demands of the 130,000 people who live in Powys.

"This means putting patient treatments, medicines and staff before buildings."

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SEE ALSO
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Doctors' fears at hospital plans
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