PEOPLE in Wales are incredibly passionate about the NHS – they’re very proud that its founding principles were shaped here, and are normally full of praise for the fantastic doctors, nurses and NHS staff who work so hard, day in day out, looking after patients.

But whether its ambulance response times, people’s experience of hospital – good and bad – or worries about local GP provision and dentistry, quite rightly, people expect answers when things go wrong, and to have a say on health services in their area.

Down the years, I’ve learnt that listening to people’s views and learning from those experiences is vital, but right now it’s more essential than ever that we tap into that passion, as there’s an essential conversation under way about the future shape of hospital services.

The South Wales Programme, currently out for public consultation, looks at the future of consultant- led maternity and neonatal care, paediatric services, and accident and emergency provision across South Wales.

The product of 18 months of dialog between clinicians and NHS planners, it addresses head-on some of the fundamental challenges facing the health service, particularly around the difficulties we’re seeing in the recruitment of doctors in specialities like A&E, consultant led maternity and neonatal care and paediatrics.

Underpinning the South Wales Programme is the recognition that ensuring safe and sustainable services into the future, will mean that some specialities need to be concentrated on fewer sites – indeed, there’s already a vigorous public debate under way over where those services should be located.

For my constituents in Torfaen, and for people across Gwent, the fact that the Specialist and Critical Care Centre planned for Cwmbran, features in all four proposed options for hospital configuration is hugely important. The state-of the-art hospital, which has widespread backing amongst clinicians and significant public support, will I believe, have a transformative effect on the delivery of health services in the area.

While the delays to this landmark development have been deeply frustrating – considering the swingeing capital cuts that were imposed by the UK Government – the fact it’s at the heart of the South Wales Programme, and has been confirmed in the Welsh Government’s capital programme, is really significant and most welcome.

It’s vitally important as many people as possible have their say on the South Wales Programme before the consultation closes on the 19th of July – to find out more, call 0300 083 0020 or-e mail swpresponse@