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Wig service is latest to be snipped; Views of Wales.

SIR - The downward spiral of services at Withybush Hospital took another dive when the Wig Service was the latest thing to disappear. In the great scheme of things it may not seem like much, but to a cancer patient it is a "huge" issue.

As Cancer Research UK says: "Hair loss and hair thinning can be very stressful. Some people find it the hardest part of having cancer and its treatment. This is understandable because our appearance is closely linked to our feelings of self esteem."

It was brought to my attention by staff at Withybush Hospital, Haverfordwest, that the "wig service" which was available to chemotherapy patients within the hospital had been stopped.

You can imagine that the trauma of a woman losing her hair when going through cancer is terrible. The "Wig Ladies" were able to speak to people even while undergoing treatment and help them through this difficult time. The cost of wigs was very reasonable and patients could get wigs for only PS20 or PS30 extra on top of the PS90 wig voucher that the health board contributes.

I am simply asking why a perfectly good system, used at Withybush Hospital for many years, well received and appreciated by patients, and for which the staff had received a "Chairman's Award for Excellence", was changed. What was the rationale for so doing and who made the decision and who was consulted in the process? Were the views of patients taken into account? The wig service is now provided by a private company, Todaro's (on whom I place no blame as they are a private company and have a business to run), and people have to travel to Milford Haven.

I appreciate they have a dedicated room for wig fitting, but people still have to go to a "trendy" hairdresser and upstairs (which is difficult for some during treatment) to a consultation about wigs.

I asked the woman at Todaro's who is responsible for this service what the minimum price for a wig was over and above the PS90 voucher. She explained that they have very few at PS165 but most range from PS250 to PS1,000. The PS250 is PS160 more than the voucher and by the woman's own admission this is generally their base cost. There is also a PS35 consultation fee. I know from my own experience that cancer causes financial issues.

I wrote to the Vice-Chair of the Hywel Dda Health Board, Mrs Sian-Marie James, on April 2 to raise my concerns. It has taken four weeks for a reply as Mrs James had to get comments from Mrs Lewis (County Director for Pembrokeshire). I waited four weeks to be told: "In Wales, there is currently a system where all wigs are provided via a 'voucher' style service. Following referral from the chemotherapy or dermatology teams, patients are able to source their wig from any hairdresser or wig outlet they wish. The health board contributes the sum of PS90 towards the cost of the wig.

"There is currently work being undertaken on an all-Wales basis and I understand that a revised policy is likely to be issued shortly."

So, I waited four weeks to be told nothing. In an email I was also told that patients can choose a similar wig supplier in Lampeter, if they prefer.

If there is an all-Wales policy review why change the system before the results of that review are complete? If the old system was working fine, why change it? I really think Hywel Dda Health Board have no idea what a huge issue this is for people going through cancer treatment.

If you think the removal of the Wig Service for Cancer Patients is wrong, or the removal of other services is wrong you can write to: Mr Chris Martin (Chair), Hywel Dda Health Board, Merlin's Court, Winch Lane, Haverfordwest, SA61 1SB Or you can contact the Community Health Council, Suite 1, Cedar Court, Haven's Head, Milford Haven, SA73 3LS or email Mr Lyn Neville Charity Co-ordinator, Pembrokeshire Cancer Support
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Title Annotation:Letters
Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:May 8, 2014
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