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    28 June, 2006

    Keep our hospital services local

    When constituents talk to me about the service they receive from hospitals in the area they are usually full of praise for the quality of care they get from doctors, nurses and all those working in the health service. With a new hospital currently being built in the Rhondda, and Wales's most modern hospital down in Llantrisant, locally we have benefited from the massive investment the Labour Welsh Assembly Government has made in the National Health Service. I have written before about the consultation exercise now being undertaken on hospital services in South East Wales.

    Patients are positive about the care they receive at the Royal Glamorgan and at the existing Llwynypia hospital, which is why the suggestion that services at the Royal Glamorgan might be downgraded has been received with such hostility locally.

    It obviously makes sense from time to time to have a serious look at the way care is delivered. People understand that record sums are being invested, and that money must be spent to maximum effect. They know that the ageing of our population brings new challenges, as do the cost of new drugs for cancer and other diseases, and the advance of medical technologies.

    However, we are not starting from scratch. It is naïve to think that modern hospital facilities can suddenly be scrapped. Indeed, it would be irresponsible to waste NHS money on solutions that do not seek to exploit the best of current provision.

    Travel to hospitals is difficult for many elderly patients whose transport plans are dictated largely by bus timetables. Were, for the sake of argument, facilities to be centralised at a new site in Abercynon, or transferred from the Royal Glamorgan to Merthyr or elsewhere, transport difficulties for local people would be made worse.

    The consultation document is right to say that change must be both strategic and sustainable. However, diminishing the role of Wales's most modern hospital, in relation to accident and emergency and other key services, will be neither understood by patients and local communities nor will it maximise the effective and efficient use of NHS resources in a sustainable fashion. It would be crazy to undermine a high-performing modern hospital such as we have at the Royal Glamorgan.

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    Promoted by Leighton Andrews AM, National Assembly for Wales, Cardiff CF99 1NA.

    Author's editorial policy: This blog does not publish anonymous comments, unless they are really witty and I like them. If you have something to say, then have the courage of your convictions and use your name or an identifiable alias. Even then I reserve the right not to publish comments that are malicious, defamatory, stupid, pointlessly cynical or boring. Any of the statements or comments made above should be regarded as personal and not necessarily those of the National Assembly for Wales, any constituent part or connected body.