Former Welsh health minister Jon Owen Jones has outlined plans for a radical shake-up of Wales' acute hospitals.
The Labour MP, who lost his front-bench job following the launch of the Welsh Assembly, told the Western Mail that the number of general hospitals in Wales could be cut from 16 to six to free up money and elective facilities to meet growing patient demand.
The plans do not include hospital closures, but argue that there is scope to create centres of excellence for emergency work, with other hospitals acting as satellites.
The issue of hospital closures has already been discussed by the Welsh Assembly in the wake of the publication of a 'stocktake' of the state of the NHS in Wales. Members made it clear they would fight to retain local hospitals with a full range of services.
But Mr Owen Jones said the NHS 'cannot afford to run the present number of general hospitals and continue to meet the public's increasing demand for its services'.