THE Welsh government is preparing to look at "another model" for providing acute neonatal care after plans to switch services to Arrowe Park Hospital caused an outcry.

The Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board (BCUHB) wants to move its specialised intensive care for premature babies to the Wirral-based hospital.

The move has been vehemently opposed by parents in north Wales with thousands signing a protest petition.

Hospital staff have also objected to the scheme and have received support from the British Medical Association and Royal College of Nursing.

Now First Minister of Wales Carwyn Jones is to seek further independent advice on whether there is another model which would make Welsh health services self-sufficient.

He said: "I have decided to put in place arrangements to advise me on the future possibilities for the development of specialised neonatal services in north Wales.

"The terms of reference will include the feasibility of providing a neonatal intensive care service located within north Wales.

"I wish it to also look at the interdependencies with other acute services, travel distances and ensuring BCUHB maintains and builds clinical expertise."

Mr Jones added: “It is entirely appropriate that BCUHB continues to put in place these plans to provide services compliant with these standards for babies in north Wales.

"This includes the use of Arrowe Park where necessary."

A statement issued in February by Wirral University Teaching Hospital said: "The transferring of very poorly babies to other hospitals for specialist care is already well established, for example for paediatric surgery or paediatric intensive care.

"Our hospital is pleased to be able to provide sick and vulnerable babies with the highest standard of care available.”