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A Health Service for Brecon and Radnorshire

November 11, 2005 12:00 AM
In Brecon and Radnor Express

Here we go again - another year draws to an end, and with it another battle to save our community hospitals starts. I have been inundated in the past couple of weeks by letters, phone calls and emails, following the news that Powys LHB are considering closing wards in Bronllys and Builth hospital this winter to save money. Any such move would have been devastating to the communities affected and a real blow to the morale of staff involved. Managers of big hospitals might be able to get away with such moves to help balance their bottom line, but it simply won't wash with residents of Brecon & Radnorshire, as demonstrated by last weeks public meeting in Builth.

Thankfully, Powys LHB have seen the folly of moving patients, doctors and nurses around the county, for what is a small drop in the ocean of money that is spent on the NHS in Wales every year, and will instead find other ways to save money.

One way could be to develop services that would allow more patients to be treated in the community and in our local hospitals - after all, there is little point of saving our hospitals if they don't treat people. Of course there will always be some services that patients will have to travel for. However, there are others which could be done here but that patients are having to travel many miles for. It would save money and might actually be more convenient for local people. I believe our community hospitals are well placed to be able to achieve this, if given the right support and vision from those at the top. I am pleased the LHB have given this commitment to the people of Builth but now would like to see it replicated for our other community hospitals.

Keeping people out of hospital altogether would be good for patients as well as the LHB's bank balance. Preventative measures and good services in the community can make all the difference - just ask the pensioners in this area who can't get their toe nails cut any more by the chiropody service.

Hospitals and other medical facilities do not operate in a vacuum - they are at their best when they work in close partnership with social services and the voluntary sector. I have been in correspondence recently with Usk House and with the Bracken Trust - two organisations that perform a vital role in the community providing palliative care and support for those with life limiting illnesses. Both are extremely concerned about future funding. Earlier this year, we saw the dissolution of the Brecon Meals on Wheels service, after volunteers felt new regulations had become too onerous. If we do not do more to support our voluntary organisations, they will disappear; without them, pressure on the health service increases.

So, as I begin to write my Christmas wish list, I'll be asking for a mild winter, a renewed commitment from the Health Minister and L.H.B, and a bright and vibrant future for our community hospitals.

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