Nia Griffith MP has called on Hywel Dda University Health Board to improve their engagement with the community by ensuring that there are enough consultation documents for people to view and respond to. The MP said that whilst she believed a petition was important she believed that there should be more emphasis on residents within the Hywel Dda area completing the consultation documents and having  their say.

Speaking exclusively to Llanelli Online on Sunday (May 13) following a public meeting at the Selwyn Samuel Centre she said: “I am very disappointed at the way the consultation started and the fact there weren’t documents ready we had to struggle to get them a week after the consultation had started.

“It is simply a fact that many people are uncomfortable going online, they’re not used to necessarily using computers or if they do they actually prefer to have a written document they prefer they are able to see and the prefer to be able to turn the pages over. I am concerned that it is quite difficult to access on the website.

“If you put in health board consultation you get the one from last year. I think there are some serious issues about making sure this document is available. We have offered to photocopy it and we have been told we are not allowed to. We could have helped in that respect.

“We need to ensure that people have paper copies and that people are able to give their opinions.”

We contacted the Hywel Dda University Health Board for a comment. In a statement they said:

Hywel Dda University Health Board is encouraging its population to get involved in its consultation over the future of healthcare provision and says questionnaires are available for anyone who needs them.

There are many ways you can access a questionnaire:

· Most people access them online: https://www.ors.org.uk/web/index.php/survey/index/sid/751664/newtest/Y/lang/en

· Pick one up at your local event where you can speak to the health board directly: http://www.wales.nhs.uk/sitesplus/862/page/95328

· Phone us on 01554 899 056 or email us at Hyweldda.engagement@wales.nhs.uk to request a copy and we will post to you

· Pick one up from your main hospital reception, hospital library, GP surgery or county council venues (these are currently being distributed and will be available soon)

Director of Partnerships and Corporate Services Sarah Jennings said: “We want to hear from as many people as possible and we are following our duties and guidance on consultation. I want to stress that any individual who wants a questionnaire will be provided with one. You can fill in a questionnaire online, come to an event or contact us directly to request a copy. We are also currently delivering batches to GPs, local hospitals and local authority locations.

“Campaign groups and political parties will be provided with documents in batches of a few hundred at a time with stocks replenished as needed. This is to be prudent in the spending of public money* and to be fair in providing equal access across our entire population.”

The health board’s questionnaire has been available online since the launch on April 19, and initial hard copies have been provided to a large stakeholder mailing and at events held in the first fortnight. Hard print copies of documents were limited to a small print run initially so as to comply with consultation duties and guidance as the health board had yet to make their decision to proceed with consultation on the proposals presented by clinicians.

Nationally, most people fill in questionnaires online and the health board is already seeing this with less than 5% of returns coming from hard copies. However, the health board has printed thousands more documents and questionnaires and is currently delivering these to hospitals, GPs and local authority locations, as well as making them available in batches to campaign group and political parties.

Additional public drop-in events have also been arranged in response to what the health board is hearing from its population and a full list of events across the three counties can be found here: http://www.wales.nhs.uk/sitesplus/862/page/95328

“The Health Board has taken the approach over the past few years that it is important for people to have their voice listened to in an environment they feel comfortable and where they are able to put forward their concerns, views and ideas. We understand that our proposals will have caused many questions and concerns about the health and care services in West Wales. We therefore have a wide and varied approach to engaging with all our stakeholders and public to ensure they are given the opportunity to speak at length to understand the proposals and have the chance to make an informed choice and articulate any concerns they have. The public have told us previously that public meetings are not comfortable for them as only the loudest voices are heard and the majority of attendees are drowned out and they leave without having had the chance to have their own questions answered.

Our public drop-in sessions allow people to ask questions and share their views and comments with the clinicians that lead our services and have a meaningful conversation. The feedback from this style of event as well as the smaller events with specific groups is that people find this very helpful in understanding the facts and hearing directly from the clinicians who deliver our services on a daily basis. Our clinicians are of course here to provide health services to our patients so we have tried to use their time as wisely as possible and would encourage the public to attend our public drop ins where they can speak on a one to one basis with both members of our clinical and Executive team. As well as the public drop in we have organised in the Selwyn Samuel Centre in Llanelli on the 22nd May – 2pm to 7pm we have also organised a further event in Tumble Hall, Tumble on Monday 9th July, 2pm – 7pm.”

You can watch the full interview here:

Nia Griffith MP on Hwyel Dda from Llanelli Online on Vimeo.

The consultation document is available online here:

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