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PEOPLE in Swansea Bay have given strong backing to plans to make the area’s three main hospitals centres of excellence.

Health bosses want Morriston, Singleton and Neath Port Talbot hospitals to have distinct roles to help improve care and reduce waiting times, among other things.

And this proposal has now been approved.

It will mean Morriston becoming a centre of excellence for urgent and emergency care, specialist care and regional surgical services.

Singleton will be a centre of excellence for planned care, cancer care, maternity and diagnostics.

And Neath Port Talbot will be a centre of excellence for orthopaedic and spinal care, diagnostics, rehabilitation and rheumatology.

Nearly 8,000 people visited a website about the proposals over the summer, with 1,250 completing a survey.

A meeting of the health board was told that almost 90% of survey respondents backed the centres of excellence idea.

Nearly 85% were either in favour of separating planned and emergency care, or at least of exploring that possibility.

There was also strong support for the concept of local healthcare where possible, and specialist care where necessary.

But concerns were raised about transport to the centres of excellence, and about a decision not to re-open the minor injury unit at Singleton Hospital.

Sian Harrop-Griffiths, the health board’s director of strategy, said the current provision of healthcare in Swansea and Neath Port Talbot was not sustainable.

The Changing for the Future proposal aims to improve care, rejuvenate the three hospitals, ensure staff feel supported and deliver maximum value from the resources available.

The survey also asked about a proposed acute stroke unit, and the expansion of digital services.

John Underwood, executive director of Freshwater UK, which was involved in the engagement work, said at its heart lay a “significant and major evolution” of the three hospitals.

He said comments from people included “just get on with it” and “why haven’t we done this before?”

But there were, he said, “very real public concerns” about waiting times and appointments being cancelled.

Mr Underwood recommended the health board pressed ahead with the Changing for the Future proposals, subject to mitigation measures to address the issues raised. He acknowledged that some capital funding from the Welsh Government and the health board would be needed to deliver them.

Mwoyo Makuto, chief officer of Swansea Bay Community Health Council – a patient watchdog – said it supported Changing for the Future, but added that the transport issue was “really important”.

The health board was told that 30% of the health board’s workforce had responded to the survey, and that their views were in line with the public’s.

Board members approved the report and its findings, which include further work to improve public transport links between the three hospitals.

In September, plans to create four new operating theatres for orthopaedic surgery in Neath Port Talbot Hospital were approved, although funding will be needed from the Welsh Government.

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