People living in Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion and Pembrokeshire could have far fewer operations cancelled if health services were structured in a different way, according to a senior doctor at Hywel Dda University Health Board.
Mr Mark Henwood, Consultant Surgeon and Clinical Director for Scheduled Care at Hywel Dda, said that the cancellation rate for planned operations was ‘far too high’ and argued that emergency and planned care needed to be delivered separately.
The health board has officially launched a 12-week consultation, ‘Hywel Dda – Our Big NHS Change,’ which is aimed at making provision of local health and care better for the communities.
The health board is asking residents across Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion and Pembrokeshire, as well as the wider cross-border regions, to get involved and have their say on three proposals to improve the way care is provided to the population. Each proposal has been designed and tested by the clinicians to ensure that the services are safe, sustainable, accessible, and kind for our generation and those to come.
The health board currently provides both emergency and planned care at all four of its hospitals – but because of the number of people attending A&E departments there is ‘inevitably’ a knock-on effect on planned care, as beds are prioritised for emergency patients, Mr Henwood said.
He added, ‘Having an operation for a lot of people is a once-in-a-lifetime event, so they might have to make childcare arrangements or get family members to help them, or they may plan to go and stay with family. And then we’re bringing them in to hospital on the day of their operation and we’re having to send them home.
‘It’s very stressful and most patients are good about it and do accept it because I think everyone knows it is a possibility, but there is a knock-on effect because that patient still needs to have that operation. So then we might have to move someone else who was booked in to have their operation, possibly on the next available list.
‘This has a big impact on patients and their families because of everything they have to do – they may take time off work, they may organise all sorts of things and then we go and stuff it up for them.’
Mr Henwood added, ‘We are still committed to delivering as much care as close to home as possible – we wouldn’t deliberately make people travel unless they specifically had to. We don’t want to bring patients to hospital unless they really have to come to hospital.
‘The whole idea behind this process is to improve patient care. It’s not about saving money, it’s about delivering a more efficient health service because efficiency leads to improvements for patients. If we’re more efficient we can get the right treatments to the right patients at the right time.’