NURSES working at Welshpool Victoria Hospital's renal unit fear they could become the first in Wales to be forced into the private sector.

They have challenged First Minister Carwyn Jones to intervene and stop the service being privatised by Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board (BCUHB).

The nurses based in Welshpool face being transferred from the NHS to a private company under a tendering process by the BCUHB which should be decided in July.

The health board is under the direct control of the Labour-run Welsh Government and has been in these special measures for the past three years due to a series of failings.

Mr Jones, who is standing down as First Minister in the autumn did state during First Minister's Questions back in January that he was ideologically opposed to privatisation in the NHS.

The nurses say: "We feel this process has not been handled in accordance with policy, which has left staff feeling let down and disappointed by the management.

"While we appreciate the financial situation of the Health Board, the staff in Welshpool feel we are being sacrificed in an effort to cut the Health Board's deficit.

"All staff and Unison are completely opposed to the privatisation of the Welshpool Renal Satellite Unit and we would be the first staff within renal services to be outsourced in Wales.

"As you have previously stated in you are opposed to privatisation of any kind of the Welsh NHS, we would appreciate any help and advice you can provide to us at this extremely distressing and worrying time."

Politicians have backed their stance.

Independent Welshpool County Councillor Graham Breeze for Llanerchyddol ward has joined forces with Plaid Cymru on the issue.

Cllr Breeze, said: "This is totally unacceptable,

"Along with the staff and patients at Welshpool’s highly impressive renal satellite unit I am totally opposed to this proposal and disappointed that everyone is being kept in the dark.

"I have written to the First Minister and the health board saying so.”

"When Carwyn Jones was quizzed on the subject in the Welsh Assembly he said he was totally opposed to privatisation of any kind of the Welsh NHS so it is time he explained just what is going on,”

"The renal unit at Welshpool Victoria Memorial Hospital was built with massive support from the community and provides a remarkable service for patients. We need assurances about its future.”

A spokesman for BCUHB said: "Currently, renal services across North Wales are provided by either the NHS, an independent provider or a combination of the two.

"This mix of models was inherited when Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board was created and the work currently being carried out is to find the most sustainable and consistent solution for the future.

"As services at the Welshpool unit are provided by the Wrexham renal team this naturally forms part of the review.

"We are working with our patients, staff and partners to evaluate a number of options for the way these services can be delivered in future. All options include new facilities and equipment being provided for service users and we aim to present these to the Board in the summer."