The health crisis in South Wales could be solved by building a new super hospital close to M4 Junction 33 on the outskirts of Cardiff, according to a leading Labour councillor.
Robert Bevan, a longstanding Cabinet member of Rhondda Cynon Taf council, says he has received widespread local backing for the plan, which he has outlined to party members.
Proposals put forward by Cwm Taf Health Board could see some services, notably top-tier accident and emergency and consultant-led neonatal and maternity services, removed from Royal Glamorgan Hospital at Llantrisant. They have met with widespread opposition from local people and politicians.
Under Coun Bevan’s plan, a new hospital at Junction 33 would provide state-of-the-art facilities for acute care and surgery.
He said: “I believe the proposed reconfiguration of hospital services in South Wales should be postponed pending a wider and more comprehensive independent review.
“Information provided about the South Wales programme is limited and the consultation document is heavily biased towards one of four options.
“Public meetings held by Cwm Taf have been short on detail. Is this consultation or just a preconditioning exercise? No consideration has been given to the services that support the district general hospitals or UHW, these being ambulance services, primary care services, minor injuries units and out-of-hours services.”
Coun Bevan said there was scope to develop a wider debate on health service provision in South Wales: “The University Hospital of Wales (UHW) is 50 years old and is based on a very constrained and difficult site. If a new facility was constructed along the M4 corridor in the South Wales area then we would be presented with a state of the art facility that is easily accessed by the region.
“The opportunity for this to happen is there to explore. For a number of years a large tract of land at M4 Junction 33 has been mooted as ideal for a European Centre for Research and Technology. A new UHW in this location could act as a catalyst to bring high tech medical research and development companies to a prime location.
“The knock-on effects could also enable further transportation improvements to serve the region, including railway links into Central Cardiff and Cardiff Airport, development of the ‘Five Mile Lane’ highway infrastructure, and additional road development to link the Church Village bypass, thus alleviating congestion on Junction 34 and the A4119. These much vaunted projects have been on the back burner for too long.
“The current reconfiguration proposals have been led by consultants and clinicians who claim it is not about money. So the question has to be asked: ‘what is it really about?’ There is scant evidence in these proposals that the real needs of the public are to be addressed.
“We hear there is difficulty in recruiting consultants and nurses – we really need to challenge this. We have been drip fed this information for over 10 years and must ask what kind of recruitment programme has taken place. If those methods have failed, what alternative programme has been put in place – for example, what indigenous training and educational programmes have taken place to recruit from within the UK?
“The closing of consultant led services at one hospital is not going to cause a stampede of consultants into South Wales, neither is it going to address the long term health issues we face. These current proposals are so fundamentally flawed it really beggars belief.”
Coun Bevan said he was not advocating the closure of any hospitals in South Wales: “While I believe the existing UHW has outgrown its site, it will still in my view be necessary for the population of Cardiff,” he said.
Coun Bevan said his proposals would take years to implement, but it was important to put forward an alternative to the Cwm Taf options.
“People will knock my ideas, but at least I’m being constructive. I challenge others to come up with their proposals.”
Cwm Taf Health Board said it did not wish to comment on Coun Bevan’s proposals.
One NHS source said: “Successive reports have suggested there are too many hospitals along the M4 corridor as it is. This proposal would be enormously expensive – where’s the money coming from?”