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Paper accused of 'moral blackmail' in campaign

The South Wales Evening Post has come under attack for lobbying Swansea’s health watchdogs over the future of key medical services.

Post editor Spencer Feeney stands accused by the Board of Community Health Councils in Wales of subjecting its members to moral blackmail.

He sent them all a dossier of stories putting the case for keeping paediatric neurosurgery at Morriston.

Swansea CHC overwhelmingly rejected the Health Commission Wales plans to downgrade the children’s service to emergency only and send all planned surgery to Cardiff.

But now the Evening Post has been criticised for its campaigning to save the service.

CHC director Peter Johns wrote to the editor, saying: “I was surprised and disturbed to see a copy of a letter that you have sent to members of local community health councils about the paediatric neurosurgery services.

“CHC members are volunteers who give their time to monitoring the NHS and doing their best to look after the interests of patients.

“They should be able to do this without being subjected to moral blackmail and personal pressure from someone such as yourself.

“As community health councils, we fully recognise the importance of the press in communicating these issues to the public, but in a balanced and responsible way.”

Spencer countered in the paper: “If it is moral blackmail for this newspaper to do its job as a community champion, by ensuring our community health watchdogs are fully aware of the depth of feeling in this area about this issue, then I am delighted to plead guilty.

“I am sure the members of the community health council were able to make up their own minds after reading our dossier – just as they were after receiving secret briefings from Health Commission Wales officers. It is an insult to them to suggest otherwise.”

And he was supported by CHC chairwoman Cherry Hinton, who said: “We were under pressure because this was such an important issue.

“But we needed to see all sides of the argument and as a patients’ watchdog, this sort of pressure goes with the territory.

“What the Evening Post did was provide a balance, and there’s nothing irresponsible about that.”

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