Veronica German welcomes BMA Wales saving ideas

Welsh Liberal Democrats Shadow Minister for Health and Wellbeing, Veronica German AM has today welcomed a report from BMA Wales which lists numerous ways that the Welsh NHS could save money.

The BMA Wales has drawn up a list of savings to the tune of £100 million – whilst still delivering an effective service.

One such way is cutting down on the use of consultancy companies such as McKinsey & Company, which was commissioned by the Assembly Government.

The controversial McKinsey ‘report’ cost a staggering £500,000, BMA Wales believes that the NHS could save up to £4m by not relying on such companies.

Ms German Commented: “This latest investigation from the BMA rings true with what the Welsh Liberal Democrats have been saying for some time, that there are savings to be made without affecting the service that is delivered.

“We need to drive efficiencies and find savings wherever we can – this includes investigating the £1 billion being spent ineffectively in the Welsh NHS.

“I hope that the Welsh Assembly Government will listen to the BMA and seriously consider their suggestions.”

Veronica German AM joins calls for cancer services overhaul

Welsh Liberal Democrat Shadow Minister for Health, Veronica German has today expressed her support for Macmillan’s calls to overhaul cancer services in Wales.

Ms German commented:

“Last month we released our cancer plan for Wales which is calling for a more comprehensive cancer strategy in Wales.

“There is an increasing body of evidence that shows that under the Labour-Plaid government, Wales has slipped behind England, despite spending more per head on our health services.

“The Welsh Government has failed to develop proper strategies to improve the prevention and treatment of cancer, as Scotland and England have done. The result of this has been patients in Wales receiving worse services in Wales than over the border.

“Wales needs a cancer service that is focused on the patient and their family from diagnosis, treatment through to aftercare, remission and palliative care.

“In short, a service that doesn’t stop when the treatment stops.”

Organ Donation Opt Out Bill will be a Welsh Lib Dem priority for next Assembly term

Responding to the Health Minister’s statement to withdraw the organ donation opt-out LCO, Welsh Liberal Democrat Shadow Health Minister, Veronica German said:

“Withdrawing the order was a logical step given last week’s referendum result however an Organ Donation Opt-Out Bill should be a priority in the next Assembly term. The Welsh Liberal Democrats are fully committed to introducing a bill that would give hope to many people waiting on transplant lists so that they can live a healthy and normal life.”

Time to end the ‘one size fits all’ approach to social care

The Welsh Liberal Democrats will be using their opposition debate this week to call on the Labour-Plaid Government to increase the use of personalised budgets for social care patients and scrap the ‘one size fits all current’ model.

Veronica German AM, Welsh Liberal Democrat Shadow Health Minister, is calling for a radical change in social care to end the ‘one size fits all’ approach that ensures that many in Wales do not receive care packages appropriate to their needs. Instead, the Welsh Liberal Democrats will make a tailored social care a priority in their election manifesto, using ‘personal care budgets’ to ensure that individuals can choose their own care package.

Personal care budgets give people, and their carers, greater choice and control over the social care they receive. Users can tailor services to meet their specific needs. Welsh Liberal Democrats have also pledged to reform the regulations to give patients greater flexibility over what they can spend their care money on.

Veronica German AM, Shadow Welsh Liberal Democrat Health Minister said:

“Social care is a vital service for many older, disabled and vulnerable people. It embraces the most intimate care and support for people at times of greatest need. How well we look after each other says a great deal about the strength and character of our society.

“Often people in Wales find the social care system confusing, inflexible and not suited to their needs. That’s not good enough. Welsh Liberal Democrats want to offer more choice, control and flexibility over care.

“Labour and Plaid have left Wales in the position where we are the worst nation for allowing people to pick their own social care. Although there is a direct payment system, take up is appallingly low and many are not getting the kind of personal care package that they need.

“The Welsh Liberal Democrats will offer everyone receiving social care through the NHS or their local council the opportunity to use personal budgets so that they can chose the kind of care they need, when they need it.

“Too many people are stuck receiving care that is just not right for them. Under Welsh Liberal Democrat proposals we will make sure that we change social care so that it treats people as individuals, offering them the dignity and respect they deserve.

“The Labour-Plaid policy for social care remains that the man in Cardiff Bay knows best. They refuse to accept that it is social care patients in Wales who are best placed to understand what help and support they need.”

Fair contaminated blood compensation following calls from Welsh Liberal Democrats

Welsh Liberal Democrat Shadow Minister for Health and Wellbeing, Veronica German AM has today welcomed the news that Welsh Assembly Government has confirmed that they will be providing compensation to Welsh victims of the contaminated blood scandal.

In January the UK government confirmed that payments to people in England who contracted Hepatitis C as a result of being given contaminated blood products would be significantly increased.

The Health Minister today announced that victims in Wales will be receiving the same levels of compensation as victims in England.

The Welsh Liberal Democrats have been vocal campaigners for justice for the victims of the scandal which saw thousands of people contract Hepatitis C and HIV as a result of being given contaminated blood by the NHS.

Veronica German, Welsh Liberal Democrat Shadow Health Minister commented:

“The Welsh Liberal Democrats have lead the way in calling for the Welsh Assembly Government to provide Welsh victims of the contaminated blood scandal with appropriate compensation.

“I am thrilled to see that the Government has listened to our calls and is now providing compensation which is the same as England.

“I am also glad to see that the Government has not included a date by which to claim compensation for those who have already died.

“However this statement is only the first step. I will be campaigning strongly to tackle other injustices that have occurred because of this incident”

“Furthermore I hope that the Labour-Plaid government acts fast and provides compensation in a timely manner.

“I will keep a close eye on this situation now to ensure that we are not left in a similar situation to the continuing care claims disaster, which left thousands waiting years for reimbursement for care they should never have paid for in the first place”

Veronica German AM comments on new ambulance figures

Veronica German, Welsh Liberal Democrat Shadow Minister for Health and Wellbeing, is encouraged to see that there has been an improvement in ambulance waiting times across Wales but has noted that there is still a great deal of improvement needed.

The new stats show that in January 2011, 59% of emergency responses arrived within 8 minutes. The All-Wales target is 65%.

Veronica German, Assembly Member for South Wales East, said:

“In December the weather conditions were absolutely horrendous, which obviously put the ambulance service under a lot of strain. Across Wales, ambulance figures for December were understandably poor, so it’s good to see that they are starting to head back in the right direction.

“I’m also pleased that the new stats show that across Wales there has been a slight improvement in urgent response times when compared to the same time last year. Nonetheless, there is still a long way to go. Ambulance staff are working incredibly hard but the increase in percentage of ambulances arriving for urgent calls is up only about 1%. There are some areas, such as Torfaen and Newport, that are actually worse this year when compared to last.

“Sadly, not a single unitary authority in South Wales East met the Government-set target. In Torfaen, only 40% of ambulances that were needed urgently arrived within 8 minutes. I welcome that this is an improvement on December, but this is still nowhere near good enough. It is clear that residents in South Wales East continue to receive inferior treatment compared to most other parts of Wales.

“It is clear that the improvement will require a joint effort by Local Health Boards as well as the Ambulance service. If ambulances are queuing up outside hospitals they cannot be sent on emergency calls. The Labour-Plaid Government have still not got a grip on our NHS which has resulted in the people of Wales not receiving the treatment that they deserve.”

A&E departments must improve

Veronica German, Welsh Liberal Democrats Shadow Health Minister, has commented on newly released A&E statistics.

Figures for January 2011 released this morning show that across Wales A&E departments are still not meeting the targets set by the government.

In Wales 83.3 per cent of patients spent less than four hours and 94.8 per cent of patients spent less than eight hours waiting. The targets state that 95 per cent of patients should spend less than four hours in major A&E departments from arrival to admission and that 99 per cent of patients should spend less than eight hours waiting.

Welsh Liberal Democrat Shadow Health and Wellbeing Minister, Veronica German, commented:

“Not once were the Government A&E targets met in 2010, I hope this will not be the case for 2011 but this isn’t a great start. Looking at the statistics for the same time last year, it would seem that there has been very little improvement.

“Frontline staff are working extremely hard and it must be incredibly demoralising every time these figures are published. This is not just a problem with our A&E departments, it a whole NHS and hospital problem as well.

“If Local Health Boards believe they require resources to look at their A&E departments to improve capacity, then they should come forward with proposals to the Health Minister. There is clearly a systemic failure in the way the NHS in Wales deals with emergency and unscheduled care and these problems need to be addressed.”

Notes:
Statistics for January 2011 can be found here: http://new.wales.gov.uk/topics/statistics/headlines/health2011/1102241/;jsessionid=ptRnNmxHJylVpgRQZwt2hrxcT0JSbFs7fxv5fTFH6YWQ4n0QMFQY!-670654171?lang=en

Welsh Liberal Democrats launch proposals for National Cancer Plan

The Welsh Liberal Democrats have set out their proposals for a National Cancer Plan for Wales. Launching their policy document, Wales Can Tackle Cancer, Welsh Liberal Democrats set out plans to develop a comprehensive National Cancer Plan for Wales to:

• Roll out the latest IMRT radiotherapy across Wales.

• Invest in state of the art screening.

• Ensure a personal service that goes the extra mile for patients and families.

• Tackle inequalities so that Wales has a service comparable to England.

• Provide up to date bespoke information for patients and families.

• Promote the mutual support groups so that patients receive the reassurance they need.

The document also highlights the inadequacies of the Labour-Plaid governments Wales’ approach to cancer prevention and treatment and sets out evidence that Wales is now slipping behind both Scotland and England in cancer prevention, detection and treatment.

Veronica German AM, Welsh Liberal Democrat Shadow Health Minister, said:

“Under the Labour-Plaid government, Wales has slipped behind England, despite spending more per head on our health services. The Welsh Government has failed to develop proper strategies to improve the prevention and treatment of cancer, as Scotland and England have done. The result of this has been patients in Wales receiving worse services than patients over the border.

“Wales needs a cancer service that is focused on the patient and their family from diagnosis, treatment through to aftercare, remission and palliative care. In short, a service that doesn’t stop when the treatment stops.”

Commenting, Kirsty Williams AM, Leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats said:

“Wales can tackle cancer but it needs the government to give it the priority and attention that it deserves. Welsh Liberal Democrats have today set out plans to develop a comprehensive National Cancer Plan for Wales. We will redirect money currently in the NHS budget to fund newer medicines and modern equipment to tackle cancer. We will ensure better facilities to help cut waiting times and improve patients’ quality of life.”

Assembly Government must do more to prevent sight loss in Wales

Welsh Liberal Democrat Shadow Minister for Health, Veronica German AM, has criticised the Welsh Assembly Government for not doing more to prevent sight loss in Wales.

Speaking in the Senedd, Ms German asked the First Minister what he would be doing to ensure that saving people’s sight is addressed in a public health strategy.

Veronica German, Assembly Member for South Wales East, commented:

“Sight loss has a huge impact upon individuals, the statutory sector and the wider economy of Wales.

“People with sight loss are twice as likely to suffer from depression. They are more likely to fall into poverty and many lose all independence becoming trapped in their own homes and dependent upon support from the statutory sector.

“Sight loss also has a huge cost to the NHS and support services in Wales, totalling around £300m a year in Wales alone. This number will continue to increase if this Labour-Plaid Government does not act now to tackle these issues.

“According to research the number of people with sight loss, if no action is taken, will double in the next twenty five years. This is despite the fact that up to half of sight loss is preventable. After all these years, this Labour-Plaid Government still does not have a discernable public health strategy to tackle this serious issue.”

Much needs to be done to deliver the mental health services that Wales needs

We all want to be physically healthy but, from time to time, we will experience ill health – whether it’s a simple cold or something more serious.

And, just like our physical health, we will, from time to time, experience mental ill health too.

Statistics show one in four people will develop some kind of mental health condition at some point in their life. This means that we will all be touched by mental ill health, either ourselves or our family.

In Wales we have made good progress in improving mental health services recently with the passing of the mental health Measure.

But as encouraging as this is, there’s still much to be done. Legislation doesn’t fix everything and there are a multitude of issues we need to tackle in order to deliver the mental health services Wales needs.

A healthier, more productive and fairer society is one in which we recognise difference, promote mental health and wellbeing and challenge health inequalities.

We need mental health services in Wales, which prevent ill health, intervene early when it occurs and improve the quality of life for people with mental health problems and their families.

A mental health strategy should focus on measurable outcomes based on people’s experience of the services they receive. A service should be considered successful based on its quality, rather than on the basis of a top-down target, which measures success on how many people can be pushed through the system.

Improved mental health and wellbeing is associated with a range of better outcomes. These include improved physical health and life expectancy, better educational achievement, increased skills and reduced health risk behaviours.

By focusing on outcomes rather than process we will not only deliver better mental health services but services that have a cumulative positive impact on other health areas.

The UK Government has just released the report No Health Without Mental Health, which sets out the English strategy for mental health services.

Maybe a similar report in Wales would be useful to set out exactly how we should deliver mental health services – Wales has different needs and issues which need to be addressed.

For example, we still lack an anti-stigma campaign. The English and Scottish campaigns have been hugely successful at raising the profile of mental health problems and tackling the unfair stigma that surrounds them. I stand firm in my belief that Wales could benefit from such a campaign.

We hear every day about the financial difficulties the country is facing but this needn’t be a hindrance. A small, focused campaign aimed primarily at employers, could do much to help. It would lay responsibility on employers to ensure the work place is a stigma-free environment by providing information and education on mental health disorders.

Ultimately, I would like to see a mental health strategy which delivers a robust, holistic service under strong leadership, in the form of an experienced and committed individual. I feel mental health is significant enough to warrant a dedicated government representative.

Crucially, Wales needs a timely and effective service aimed not only at those who suffer from mental health disorders but also their families.

Often families don’t understand these conditions or they don’t know how to deal with a loved one who has a mental health disorder. It is also often the case that when caring for someone with mental health problems, they have nowhere to turn themselves or push their own mental health to the side.

We should be looking to ensure that no matter how you are affected by mental ill health you have somewhere to go for support.

Written for the Western Mail.