Christmas and the health service

The Christmas season is now well and truly upon us. It’s a time for celebration, a time to perhaps eat (and drink) a little too much and a time to spend with your loved ones. Most of all it is a time to forget work and relax. For some though Christmas is another day at work.

Whilst Christmas brings with it many reasons for celebration it also poses its fair share of problems. Among other things, it marks the beginning of flu season, the usual over indulgence and not forgetting the cold weather.

We are currently in the grips of an especially harsh British winter – over the past few weeks it’s been impossible not to notice the chaos the weather has caused across the country – and with it come increases in traffic accidents, broken limbs and other problems linked to cold weather such as hypothermia.

All this puts a huge strain on all of our public services, but none more than the Welsh Health Service, and with the extremely cold weather potentially running well into the New Year the increased pressure on the Health Service looks set to continue.

At a time when most of us are preparing for an enjoyable Christmas and New Year with family and friends, the Health Service is preparing to tackle everything from falls (caused by slippery conditions) to flu (Seasonal flu, and more recently the increase in swine flu cases in Wales will add to the workload as patients have their jabs and seek treatment).

The fact is that people’s healthcare needs do not end at Christmas. Where there is someone who needs caring for weather it is in a hospital, an A&E department or in a residential care home then there will need to be someone to provide that care.

At Christmas it is all too easy to get wrapped up in everything, the shopping, the cooking and the gifts, but we need to spare a thought for those who have to work on a day which many of us are lucky enough to have off work. Healthcare professionals work so hard every day of the year to provide us with the best healthcare they can and Christmas day is no exception.

The reality today is that the Welsh NHS should be a 24 hour, seven days a week service, Christmas or not. The least the Labour-Plaid Government can do is provide healthcare professionals with the best possible conditions to work in and make it possible for them to do their jobs to the best of their ability, uninhibited by restrictive and overly bureaucratic targets.

According to BMA Wales, “Recent figures reveal that Wales is short of almost 400 hospital doctors. We have seen hospitals being downgraded, wards closed, and inappropriate workloads being forced upon employees – which inevitably hamper the quality and safety of care patients are receiving. Many are working in excess of their contracted hours to fill the gaps caused by recruitment failures”.

Despite this, health care professionals have shown and continue to show amazing resilience in the face of enormous difficulties and that is something to be commended. Whatever your point of view, we can all agree on this point.

It is for these reasons that in the New Year I will continue to campaign for a more efficient, effective health service which delivers for the patient and staff alike.

In the days running up to Christmas I would like to convey my thanks to all those who have worked so hard and who will be working throughout the Christmas period to provide us with the security and the care which we have come to expect.

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