COUNTY councillors have gone head-to-head with the local health board in a fiery meeting over dementia services.

The council’s adults select committee called a special meeting last Thursday (19th July) and welcomed several representatives of the Aneurin Bevan University Health Board to discuss the future of adult mental healthcare services in Monmouthshire.

Councillors set out to scrutinise the board’s April decision to close the St Pierre ward at Chepstow Community Hospital, and the consultation process that preceded it. It also quizzed the representatives on the board’s plans for the future of the small hospital.

Former Chepstow Town Councillor Stephanie Dovey echoed the feelings of many in Chepstow as she opened the forum with a furious attack on the health board for “lying” about the closure.

She said: “Your promises are broken year after year, and I’m wondering long term what you have in mind for Chepstow Hospital, because as far as I’m concerned, you’ve stripped it down to nothing and as a community, we’ve got a lot more houses but you’ve taken this all away.

“When it used to be Mount Pleasant, people coming out of the Gwent could recover there, it was like a cottage hospital, but now we’ve got nothing, we’ve got nothing at all.

“You come out here with all of you literature but it doesn’t mean a damn thing, you don’t tell the truth. How you can all sit there I don’t know”.

The discussion began by querying the consultation process as councillors indicated it was ineffective, attracting only 116 Monmouthshire residents to have their say. Speaking in response, Dr Chris O’Connor, divisional director of mental health and learning disability said: “There were a number of comments that we could have done this better. Daytime-only consultation was a mistake maybe.”

The health board listed some reasons Chepstow’s St Pierre ward was singled out for closure as being about its geographical location, ward environments, problems with staff recruitment and retention, lack of access to non-emergency healthcare and the fact the ward was not specially built to cater for people suffering from dementia. These defences were immediately rebuked by committee member Councillor Debby Blakeborough who challenged members. She replied: “It seems to me that it was because of the board’s inability to run the ward well that it got closed down, even when the mental health side is working very well. It’s down to the management of that unit.”

Bronwen John, from the health board, said plans are being made with Bridges Community Car Scheme to help patients and carers travel to Ysbyty Tri Chwm in Ebbw Vale and St Woolos Hospital in Newport – where Monmouthshire patients now receive in-patient care.

Cllr Jane Pratt also warned about the impact of closing the ward if more people move to Monmouthshire following the abolition of the Severn Bridge tolls at the end of the year.

She said: “We have a massive crisis looming here and I do not think this crisis is far away.”