The continuing scandal of hospital care in Wales was brought into sharp focus during First Minister’s Questions yesterday (February 4), when Paul Davies AM/AC challenged Mark Drakeford over the Welsh Labour Government’s appalling record.
His line of attack came just days after a UK Labour leader hopeful, Lisa Nandy, questioned whether devolution was working for the people of North Wales.
Mr Davies – the Leader of the Opposition – said:
“We know it’s not devolution that’s the problem: it’s the party running the Welsh Government that’s the real problem, and that’s why we need change.”
Health boards throughout Wales have been rocked by a series of scandals over the last few years, with most in special measures or targeted intervention in an effort to improve performance.
A & E waiting times hit a disastrous new record each month, and around 6,000 people a month wait more than 12 hours for A & E treatment, while 22,000 wait more than four hours.
Mr Davies said that it should be “… a source of great embarrassment and concern that Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board (BCUHB) is the worst-performing health board when it comes to A & E waiting times, with just 66.8 percent of patients being seen within the critical four-hour period.”
He added that BCUHB – which has been under direct control of the Government for nearly five years – is set to post a deficit of £35 million in this financial year, a staggering £10m above the target set by the Welsh Labour Government, and after an eye-watering £83m that has already been spent on intervention and improvement support.
Mr Davies directed some uncomfortable questions to the First Minister, asking how he and his party would address such unacceptably high waiting times for A & E services in North Wales, as well as demanding to know what urgent action it would take to address the special measures arrangements, and how it will improve service delivery.
Speaking later, Mr Davies said:
“Unsurprisingly – but nonetheless regrettably for the long-suffering people of North Wales – the First Minister could not answer and would not take responsibility for this scandal in the Welsh NHS that is blighting so many lives.
“As the responses to the Welsh Conservatives’ Big Wales NHS Survey that we are conducting indicate, the people of Wales want change. Change in the way the Welsh NHS is managed and run. Change – for the better, not for the worse – in A & E waiting times.
“They have waited long enough, and deserve better. A Welsh Conservative Government would bring about the change our people so desperately deserve.”