I was among the attendees at a public engagement session in Abergavenny Library on Friday to hear more about Aneurin Bevan University Health Board’s proposals to remove overnight minor injury services at Nevill Hall Hospital. Lots of concerned residents were there, many of whom have experienced using the minor injury unit themselves. Health board officials, who I am sure are doing their best, made the case that only one person on average seeks treatment for a minor injury at Nevill Hall between 1:00am and 7:00am. At the same time, they accepted there is a huge amount of confusion over where people should go if they are taken ill. When The Grange University Hospital was built at Llanfrechfa, I was expressly told the emergency department would not accept walk-ins and patients would only be admitted if they arrived by ambulance, helicopter or were transferred from another health facility. However, a local consultant contacted me last week to say they do accept walk-ins and patients can self-present. I raised this particular point and the answer was still unclear. It seems you can self-present but is it “not encouraged as a default” and they would rather you didn’t.
The other problem, which everyone accepts, is The Grange is not good enough. It is not delivering and nobody can say it has been a great success. Prior to the opening of this “flagship” hospital, health bosses personally assured me that the extra journey time it would take for patients travelling the longer distance to Llanfrechfa would be compensated for by the new specialist and critical care ‘centre of excellence’ – alongside a much better level of service in the ambulance en route. The sad reality is ambulances are not turning up and when they do, patients are facing unacceptably long waits to be seen. You can understand why people are deeply worried and upset at yet another downgrading of services at Nevill Hall Hospital. We have already lost the A&E department and now face losing the minor injury unit. At some point, the inevitable question will be asked about the future of Nevill Hall if services continue to be taken away.
Another point I raised was what happens if you arrive at the minor injury unit at midnight or just before it closes at 1:00am. While the health board can dress up the answer as nicely as it wants, the simple truth is you could be sent elsewhere if you are not treated. With no public transport in the middle of the night, the journey to the minor injury unit at Newport’s Royal Gwent Hospital is prohibitive for some and not everybody has access to a car.
The health board has extended its original eight-week public engagement period for another four weeks until 5:00pm on Friday 1 December 2023. I would strongly encourage readers to make their views known by completing the online feedback survey at https://bit.ly/45U1CAS and signing the petition at https://petitions.senedd.wales/petitions/245573
*Published in the Monmouthshire Beacon on 4 October 2023 and Abergavenny Chronicle on 5 October 2023*