A HEALTH board has defended its decision to centralise emergency vascular surgery.

Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board (BCUHB) claim emergency arterial vascular surgery is currently spread “too thinly” across two of hospital sites and neither Ysbyty Gwynedd or Wrexham Maelor Hospital is able to offer a 24/7 service.

BCUHB, which has been in special measures for more than three years, confirmed it will centralise emergency vascular surgery at Glan Clywd Hospital – which will serve the whole region – with a new £3.5 million hybrid theatre which will open next year.

The decision comes less than a year after the health board said there would be no change in provision and follows an online petition signed by 3,000 people. The issue was also raised in Prime Minister’s Questions.

Evan Moore, executive medical director of BCUHB, said: “The health board is committed to implementing a modern vascular network in line with guidelines from the Vascular Society of Great Britain and Ireland. This decision has the support of the Wales Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm Screening Programme, the Royal College of Surgeons, the Community Health Council and the Local Management Committee of North Wales General Practitioners.

“At present emergency arterial vascular surgery is spread too thinly across two of our hospital sites and neither Ysbyty Gwynedd or Wrexham Maelor Hospital is able to offer a 24-hour a day, seven day a week service.”

He added: “We have placed significant investment into vascular services with a £3.5m state of the art hybrid theatre opening next year. Our plans have already helped us attract more surgeons, consultants and doctors and this will mean the health board will have one of the best staffed and equipped arterial centres in the UK.

“The will centralise emergency vascular surgery will offer the highest quality care and outcomes for patients from across North Wales. It will provide a robust base for the continued delivery of the many other non-complex local vascular services across the region.

“We have calculated that for North Wales, the arterial centre at Ysbyty Glan Clwyd will handle around 300 complex cases per year, representing about 20 per cent of all vascular activity across North Wales.

“Therefore, 80 per cent of activity will remain at our local sites.”

Darren Millar, AM for Clwyd West - whose constituency includes Ruthin and surrounding villages, said: "I fully support the development of a centre of excellence for vascular care at Glan Clwyd Hospital; it will save lives and give my constituents and other patients much better outcomes than is currently the case.

"I am aware of the concerns that have been expressed about the impact of the development at other North Wales hospitals but the absence of 24/7 care at Ysbyty Gwynedd and in Wrexham poses a risk which the newly configured service will help to address.”

Ysbyty Gwynedd and Wrexham Maelor Hospital will continue to provide vascular clinics; diagnostics; interventions such as renal access and varicose vein procedures; review of in-patient vascular referrals; and rehabilitation.

Mr Moore added: “In cases where it is in the patients’ interest to be treated for an emergency in either Ysbyty Gwynedd or Wrexham Maelor, the new robust service will allow an on call vascular specialist to provide that care at those hospitals.”