The Welsh Government have launched a public consultation on whether to move Bridgend’s health services from Abertawe Bro Morgannwg (ABMU) health board (which currently covers Bridgend, Neath Port Talbot and Swansea) to the Cwm Taf health board (which currently covers Rhondda Cynon Taf and Merthyr Tydfil).
The details are available here and the consultation is open until March 7th 2018.
Why are they planning to do this?
As part of plans to reform local government in Wales, the Welsh Government want to promote regional working (joint working between local authorities) based around city regions.
Currently, Bridgend is in an awkward position because it’s part of the Cardiff city region, but has high-level partnerships with the Swansea area (like the existing health board) and multiple agreements with multiple different regional bodies.
If Bridgend’s health services move from ABMU to Cwm Taf, the Welsh Government believe it would be much easier for health and social services to be planned in the Bridgend area within the Cardiff city region once local government reforms are put in place.
The South Wales Programme (which will see services downgraded at Llantrisant’s Royal Glamorgan Hospital) will see the Princess of Wales Hospital take a fair amount of extra patients from the Cwm Taf health board. It would perhaps be easier if the hospitals were in the same health board.
What are the issues?
Firstly, disentangling Bridgend from Swansea and Neath Port Talbot in terms of health services and the Western Bay social services/social care. Secondly, Bridgend would then have to integrate/coordinate services, staff and estates with Rhondda Cynon Taf and Merthyr Tydfil (effectively the old Mid Glamorgan area).
There would need to be minor law changes, so any proposals to change those laws are likely to be debated in the Assembly.
When could it happen?
A decision is set to be made in Spring 2018 and if there’s go-ahead the move should happen by 1st April 2020.
What issues weren’t mentioned in the consultation?
The Princess of Wales Hospital is the main A&E hospital for people living in the Port Talbot area. It’s not as if they would be denied treatment in Bridgend, but they might be increasingly re-directed to Morriston, while patients in the Llantrisant and Rhondda area are sent to Bridgend as the Royal Glamorgan Hospital is downgraded.
It’s likely to cause some political confusion too, particularly for regional Assembly Members.
Bridgend is within South Wales West, but the Cwm Taf health board is covered by South Wales Central. This means regional AMs representing South Wales West will have to monitor an additional health board and it may become unclear who can deal with casework from the Bridgend area. This makes an argument for electoral reform much stronger.