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Major Trauma for Welsh Politics

Consultation is open on the location of Wales’ first Major Trauma Unit, being fought out between Morriston Hospital in Swansea or University Hospital Cardiff. This overtly political debate is not to be diverted into hoary old Cardiff v Swansea tosh, and neither reduced to a balance sheet for the most efficacious location, although there are strong geographical and logistical arguments in favour of Morriston.

The already congested UHW site in Cardiff will require significant shuffling and relocation of medical disciplines to house the new unit, whilst Morriston, with recent welcome and visible investment, already has a recently purchased 50 acre greenfield site with adequate space for new ‘state-of-the-art’ development. Secondly, the convenient availability of specialist disciplines in Cardiff is justified mainly as a result of the location of the head injuries unit there, as if the relocation of that unit to Morriston would be a major disruption, in the face of all the other relocations required at UHW. Further, a Morriston boost for continued invaluable development of the Medical Centre at Swansea University, would be significant.

The decision is a political one – Welsh political; in this case, it is essentially political for south Wales: How will the proposed Trauma Unit best serve the people of Wales?

Current Trauma provisions for Wales are located in Liverpool, Birmingham, North Staffs and Bristol. Indeed, there is also provision in Devon, not so far away by helicopter. There is nothing in Wales. Making provision in Cardiff, with itself, east and central Wales already well serviced by two units in Bristol, Birmingham and North Staffs, appears to be unduly narrow sighted.

That alone appears to be a strong enough case for Morriston. It points to the substantive case presented here. There is another wider and more persuasive argument.

The Trauma Unit, and the health service in general, should be seen as an important ingredient of the infrastructure of South Wales. That infrastructure, our very social fabric, is under serious threat at the moment.

The failure to invest in rail electrification to Swansea, the absence of Swansea (or anything east of Bridgend) in proposals for the ‘South Wales’ Metro, the lack of progress on the Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon, the vast expenditure, real and proposed, on elaborate, hardly sustainable, road systems in east Wales, the overt lack of consideration of south west Wales in the still tenuous plans for the development of Cardiff Airport, and so on, indicate not a Cardiff centric but an anglo-centric gravitational pull, of course globally inevitable, but for which we have a Welsh Government tasked to ensure that the future of the whole of Wales and its people is sustained.

Even the much-lauded City Deal, bringing welcome jobs and business development well beyond Swansea has no provision for infrastructure. Decades of similar commercially oriented investments in the valleys, stripped of their social and economic vitality with the collapse of heavy industry, have barely resulted in the social and spatial integrity that was so much a part of our communities’ very existence. They unfortunately remain an unresolved sore for both our political and financial capacity.

The decision regarding the location of the Trauma Unit is of similar import. Not some parochial matter of Cardiff v Swansea, nor the inevitable draw of wealthier jobs, indeed NHS staff at all levels, and services eastwards.

One starting point is to sustain support for our remaining industrial, agricultural and social strengths in west Wales and the inevitable traumas they will face in the years ahead. In addition, the health sector and the local authority should be constructively identified in this consultation, as they are, by far, the biggest and most critical employers in the area.

We need commitment to and investment in South Wales, in Wales as a whole, and remain deeply concerned that, despite the valiant efforts of politicians, local councils and the business community, South West Wales is steadily being undermined by decisions east of our control.

The call should go out for this tendency to be reversed, for the Welsh Government to boost the infrastructural integrity of Swansea and South West Wales, and to take this great opportunity to make the almost perfectly located Morriston Hospital a beacon of healthcare provision and infrastructure, confirming Wales, not just east Wales, as the self-supporting, community oriented, community committed social entity that has always been our strength.

Political organisations and activists in Wales should submit formal responses to the ABMU consultation and require Assembly Members to argue the wider political case in the Assembly Labour Group and beyond.

Gordon Gibson,

January 2018

More information and the proposals for developing a major trauma network for the region can be downloaded from the AMBU website  where there is also the opportunity to respond on the proposals. The closing date for responses is 9.00 am Monday 5th February 2018.



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