PLAID Cymru’s Delyth Jewell AM has criticised the Labour Welsh Government for failing to open a specialist perinatal unit in Wales, despite promising to do so as part of a budget deal.
The specialist unit was due to be opened in Swansea in 2021, but last month the BBC reported that an interim unit on a psychiatric ward would be opened in Neath instead, going against the recommendation of mental health experts.
Speaking in a Plaid Cymru debate on mental health in the Senedd, Delyth Jewell said:
“I believe that the first person to call for a specialist unit to be developed was my predecessor Steffan Lewis and he was successful in playing a part in achieving a commitment from the Welsh Government to develop a permanent unit by 2021 as part of the 2018-19 budget deal between Labour and Plaid Cymru.
“Now we know that it doesn’t look like this is going to happen, with Labour set to break a budget deal promise by opening an interim unit within a psychological hospital instead.
“This is not what was agreed and is not what’s needed. Breaking a budget deal commitment is a very serious matter indeed, not only in terms of political trust, but more importantly in this instance, it means that new mothers will continue to be denied the treatment that they need.”
She went on to praise BBC Cymru Wales for a series of “excellent” journalistic stories about women who faced terrible tribulations as a result of having to go to England to access treatment, or receive treatment in inappropriate settings in Wales.
She read out the experiences of some of these women as reported by the BBC.
South Wales East AM Delyth Jewell closed her passionate speech with the following words:
“According to the Welsh Health Specialist Services Committee, women now face a choice, ‘between receiving inpatient care more locally but being separated from their infant, or remaining with their infant in a specialist unit but needing to travel away from their support networks’.
“They add that in many cases women choose to access local acute psychiatric services that are ‘not fit for purpose and lack specialist knowledge’. This is a choice no one would have to face, especially new mothers in a crisis situation.
“So the message to the Welsh Government is this. These women need this specialist perinatal unit. The experts agree. You promised to provide it. So get on with it before any more new mothers have to suffer because of your scandalous inaction.”
In her response the Deputy Minister for Health simply pointed to the interim unit that’s set to be opened in a psychiatric ward, which falls very short of what the Welsh Government agreed to provide (see budget deal document below)