The Welsh NHS has drawn criticism over its plan to open a new IVF clinic to replace one which is privately run. The new centre will cost £1.5 million and has sparked debate about the Welsh government's policy to not use the private sector in health care.
The centre, to be based at Neath Port Talbot Hospital, will take over from a Swansea-based clinic run by the London Women's Clinic. The contract for the clinic comes to an end in April and has not been renewed as the Welsh government seeks to reduce the use of private care within the publicly-funded health service.
In a further change the Swansea clinic is overseen by the Cardiff and Vale University Health Board, but IVF treatment at the new centre will be managed by Abertawe Bro Morgannwg University Health Board. Services at the new centre will closely resemble those provided at IVF Wales, a clinic in Cardiff.
Speaking to WalesOnline, the Welsh assembly shadow health minister Darren Millar called the decision 'ludicrous'. He said it was 'an expensive mistake based on nonsensical ideology and a stubborn attitude towards the independent sector'.
Paul Davies, Conservative Assembly Minister for Preseli Pembrokeshire added to the criticism in an interview with BBC Radio Cymru, saying that the NHS were already under enough financial pressure without making changes driven by 'dogma and ideology'.
'If a private company can offer a service of good quality, and value for money for the taxpayer, I don't see what the problem is', he added.
The new centre will open in September, leaving a gap of five months in which patients will have to travel to IVF Wales for treatment.
A spokeswoman from the Abertawe Bro Morgannwg University Health Board said, however, that while the clinic will cost £1.5 million to set up, it will cost £750,000 a year to run, which is the same amount as the private clinic which is being shut.
The Welsh Health Specialised Services Committee, which is responsible for planning IVF services, offered their reassurance on the move, saying that the number of patients needing treatment in the coming year will be assessed to reduce waiting times, and that measures will be put in place to 'ensure that there is no detrimental impact on patient's treatment'.The Welsh government have voiced their approval of the plans, saying they were 'committed to reducing the use of the private sector within the health service in Wales and increasing capacity in the NHS'.