A member of Betsi Cadwaladr Health Board has resigned over her fears that “lives could be lost” following a decision to downgrade the vascular services at Ysbyty Gwynedd in Bangor.
Emergency vascular services will be moved from Bangor to Ysbyty Glan Clwyd in Bodelwyddan which has lead to the resignation of independent Health Board member Bethan Russell Williams, who fears patients from some rural areas will suffer.
Ms Russell Williams, who was on the Health Board for four years, said she is worried that some patients in need of emergency vascular treatment who live far from Ysbyty Glan Clwyd, will die before they reach hospital.
In an interview with BBC News, Ms Russell Williams said: “It is becoming abundantly clear that the health board is moving towards centralisation of all emergency vascular provision in Ysbyty Glan Clwyd and I am fearful for the population in the very rural areas in Pen Llyn, Eifionydd and Meirionydd.”
The matter was raised at the Senedd last Tuesday by Arfon AM Siân Gwenllian who accused Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board and the Labour Welsh Government of ‘managerial incompetency’ and overseeing a flawed consultation process in respect of removing vascular services from Ysbyty Gwynedd.
Lesley Griffiths, standing in for First Minister Mark Drakeford at First Minister’s Questions, admitted that a letter sent out by the Health Board to GPs, and which formed part of the Health Board’s Agenda Papers ‘gave rise to confusion’ and ‘should have been more explicit’, leading many to wrongly conclude that emergency vascular provisions at Ysbyty Gwynedd was safeguarded.
Ms Griffiths said: “A paper did go the Board on 1st March 2018 which stated that ‘patients with diseases of the lower limbs relating to circulation will be managed at both Ysbyty Glan Clwyd and the limb salvage unit as Ysbyty Gwynedd, with provision for elective and emergency admissions and in-patient treatments at both sites.
“I think it’s that sentence that has given rise to the confusion. The Paper should have made it more explicit that the provision for elective and emergency admissions to Ysbyty Gwynedd related to diabetic foot and non-arterial cases.
“Arterial cases will go to Ysbyty Glan Clwyd…You ask about the letter that was sent to GPs and again that letter was sent with the same wording and hence I’m guessing the same confusion was caused.”
She added that in effect there had been no change to the decision taken back in 2013 regarding the reorganisation of vascular services in North Wales.
Ms Russell Williams accepted that a decision was taken in 2013 to reorganise but she says that the situation had significantly changed since then.
“Yes there was consultation in 2013 but there were concerns then that it was significantly flawed with insufficient clinical input,” she explained.
She added: “It appears to me now that the health board is backtracking and maintaining that it was poor grammar and poor wording that might have left it open to misinterpretation.”
The health board said it accepts “that the wording of our March 2018 board paper could and should have been clearer”.
It estimates that fewer than 100 patients each year from Anglesey and Gwynedd will need to travel to Glan Clwyd for their vascular surgery.
It added: “Our current service is too stretched, individual hospitals cannot provide 24/7 emergency vascular care, so out-of-hours it is provided at either Ysbyty Gwynedd or Wrexham Maelor Hospital on an alternating basis.
“If patients are too unwell to travel, the on-call surgeon travels to them. This would continue to be the case with the new service.
“Bringing the specialised surgery into one place allows us to invest in the latest equipment and technology and to attract new staff.”