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Staff shortages could revoke approval of Thoracic Unit

PLANS for a major new centre for lung surgery in Swansea are hanging in the balance due to concerns over staffing.

Morriston Hospital would become the single centre in south Wales providing thoracic surgery – which includes lung cancer and chest operations – under plans being considered by the NHS.

But the plans have been delayed as NHS chiefs have not yet worked out how to staff the new chest and lung unit along with a major trauma centre – a 24-hour facility for the most critically-ill casualties – which will open at University Hospital Wales, Cardiff, in April 2020.

Senior medical staff in Cardiff and Vale of Glamorgan hospitals have called for the thoracic surgery plans to be dropped.

Cardiff and Vale Senior Medical Staff Committee urged the health board to withdraw its support for the chest and lung surgery plans.

But instead Cardiff and Vale University Health Board agreed to give a further month to  the Welsh Health Specialist Care Committee, which is coordinating the plans between the health boards, to come up with an acceptable staffing rota.

Cardiac surgeon Indu Deglurkar, chairwoman of the Senior Medical Staff Committee, told the health board on May 30: “The Senior Medical Staff Committee urges the board to withdraw approval for the thoracic single service and not attempt to provide a major trauma service with an important component of the service inadequately provided for and against recommended guidelines.

“We have no doubt that Cardiff and Vale Health Board will not compromise on patient safety.”

A health board meeting heard that Cardiff and Vale health board has presented proposals on how to adequately staff both the thoracic centre in Swansea and the major trauma centre in Cardiff.

But this proposal has been rebuffed by WHSSC, which has not agreed a staffing plan despite having six months to do so.

Maria Battle, chairwoman of Cardiff and Vale University Health Board, said there will be a “maximum” of a one-month delay for WHSSC to sort out a staffing plan.

She said she will write to WHSSC expressing the board’s disappointment a staffing plan has not been sorted out sooner.

The health board will hold a summit after WHSSC’s joint committee meets on June 28 to plan a way forward.

A spokeswoman for WHSSC said: “At its meeting on May 14 the WHSSC Joint Committee asked the WHSS team to undertake further work on workforce arrangements and report back at the next Joint Committee meeting, which has been scheduled for June 28.  Our expectations for the overall plans for thoracic surgery to go ahead have not changed.”

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