Welsh Liberal Democrat Shadow Health Minister, Veronica German, has today called for the Assembly Government to produce a strategic Action plan to address the backlog of NHS repairs.
Speaking in a debate on the Labour-Plaid Government’s Capital Programme, Ms German called for an Action Plan for the Assembly to debate. This plan, Ms German argued, should prioritise two areas – hospitals with significant risk and hospitals with poor accessibility.
Ms German, Assembly Member for South Wales East, commented:
“There is a legacy of years of neglect in our NHS with over £400 million worth of repairs and a series of reports that confirm that targets are once again being missed, it is obvious leadership is needed now more than ever. Rather than the policy-by-headlines approach that this Government so far has lead the NHS in Wales with, Labour and Plaid urgently need a strategic Action Plan.
“Nearly half the NHS repairs backlog represents repairs that are needed to protect from risks that are deemed either a significant or high risk. This Labour-Plaid Government is letting NHS staff and patients down with their failure to ensure their safety.
“Just as concerning is the issue of disabled access to the NHS. The Government’s own report proves that over £16 million is needed to bring the NHS in Wales in compliant with the Disability Discrimination Act. These hospitals are, in effect, discriminating against disabled people. The Act was passed back in 2004, how much longer do people with disabilities have to wait until they are treated as equals in our NHS?”
Welsh Liberal Democrat Shadow Minister for Health and Wellbeing Veronica German AM has today responded to the ministerial statement from the Health Minister on the effect the recent bad weather had on the Welsh Health Service.
Ms German Commented: “I welcome today’s statement by the Minister for Health and Social Services and the establishment of the ‘Choose Well’ campaign. Any campaign which helps direct people to the most appropriate service when they feel unwell is a positive step.
“I would also like to pay tribute to all health service staff in Wales, who worked incredibly hard to deliver vital services in such difficult conditions.
“Whilst I accept that the extreme weather will inevitably slow services down and prevent targets being met it provides no explanation for every other month of the year.
“The Labour-Plaid Government is using the hard winter as an excuse for consistent failures to meet their own NHS targets. From the 80,000 lost ambulance hours leading to the inability to meet ambulance response time targets, this Government is not delivering the Health Service Wales needs.”
Figures released by the Welsh Government today reveal that an unacceptable 3,208 patients waited more than eight hours in Welsh A&E departments during December 2010, up more than double the number last December.
The figures also reveal that 11,318 of those patients had to wait more than four hours in A&E. This latest information demonstrates that there are serious problems within the A&E departments in the Welsh NHS.
The Welsh Liberal Democrats exposed at the beginning of the week how Welsh ambulances lost 80,000 hours waiting to discharge their patients to the care of A&E departments.
Labour-Plaid Government set targets were not achieved at the all-Wales level and no NHS Trust met either the four hour or the eight hour target.
Veronica German, Welsh Liberal Democrat Shadow Health Minister said:
“These statistics clearly show that the Labour-Plaid Health Minister does not have a handle on our A&E departments. On Monday, we exposed the scandal of the 80,000 hours that ambulances had to wait outside A&E departments and now we can see why they waste so much time –the A&E departments are not coping. It is unacceptable that these people had to wait more than eight hours to be seen and treated.
“We hear of terrible stories of people having to wait on trollies in corridors and ambulances and having to wait more than eight hours to be treated. The Health Minister knows that this is going on but we see that nothing is being done to address these problems. The NHS in Wales gets proportionally more money than the NHS in England however we have a poorer health service.
“There is a systemic failure in the way the NHS in Wales deals with emergency and unscheduled care. It is not the fault of the hard working paramedics, it is not the fault of the dedicated medical staff at our A&E hospitals, but it is the fault of the Labour-Plaid Health Minister and her poor management and running of the whole system.
“While these statistics do not paint the whole picture about what goes in A&E given that cases are dealt with according to their medical priority, and rightly so, we can see that the NHS in Wales is being let down by this Labour-Plaid Government”
Stats can be found here http://wales.gov.uk/docs/statistics/2011/110120sdr122011en.pdf
The Welsh Liberal Democrat Shadow Health Minister, Veronica German, has today requested the Labour-Plaid Government to publish monthly figures illustrating the number of hours of emergency ambulance cover are being lost in hospitals while crews wait to hand patients over to hospital staff.
In todays First Minister’s Questions, Ms German challenged the First Minister over his Government’s disastrous handling of the NHS in Wales and asked him to publish monthly statistics illustrating the number of ‘lost ambulance hours’. The First Minister has still not agreed to publish the figures, despite stating in a previous First Minister’s Questions that he would publish the figures if they were available for him to do so.
Ms German, Assembly Member for South Wales East, commented:
“I think even the Labour-Plaid Government would have to accept that the figures released yesterday were truly a damning report on their handling of our National Health Service. Over the last two years, over eighty thousand hours have been wasted while ambulances are waiting to discharge their patients.
“To obtain these figures we had to submit a Freedom of Information request. To see new figures, we would have to do the same again. It hardly needs pointing out how essential these statistics are to the people of Wales in seeing how well the NHS responds to accidents and emergencies. So why is it that the First Minister refused to say that his Government will agree to publish these figures on a monthly basis?
“I have in the past challenged the First Minister on this issue and he said that the ambulance service is making good progress. We all know that just isn’t the case. The ambulance service has indeed improved over the last year, but these figures illustrate the enormous problem that the Welsh NHS faces. How can this government hope to address the situation when it seems determined not to allow anyone to see the relevant statistics?”
First Minister’s Questions Tuesday 23rd November 2010:
Peter Black: You will be aware that I have raised with you previously the issue of the accident and emergency units at Morriston Hospital and the Princess of Wales Hospital, particularly the fact that they are not meeting their four-hour target. On at least one occasion, 10 ambulances were held in line outside Morriston Hospital, waiting to offload patients. Will you publish the number of hours lost by ambulances as a result of these logjams at accident and emergency departments, and of the failure to meet the four-hour target?
The First Minister: If it is possible to provide such figures, I see no reason why they cannot be provided to you.
WHAT do you do when you or one of your family feels unwell?
Do you try to treat yourself? Ring NHS Direct? Book an appointment with your GP?
You may even decide the only option is to visit the emergency department or perhaps a minor injuries unit more suitable.
The default is very often the GP surgery, especially when we aren’t sure of what to do and what other choices are available but this may not necessarily be the most appropriate place to go.
In Wales we need to have more information available to signpost us to the best route for treatment when we fall ill or suffer an injury.
It can be incredibly confusing, particularly at the weekends to know what to do and where to go. If we want to see our emergency departments working more efficiently we must ensure that it is only patients who require urgent care who attend them.
There is much good work being carried out in ensuring that non urgent cases are referred elsewhere by the ambulance call centres, but there is more to be done.
We also know that there are a range of highly-skilled health professionals in our communities such as pharmacists, optometrists, physiotherapists, occupational therapists and community nurses, but we don’t always make full use of their expertise or we simply don’t know how to access their services.
Last week I met with community pharmacists who had some exciting and innovative ideas for extending the services to patients.
Pharmacists are the medicines experts available on every high street, so we should use them more.
One of their ideas is to roll out a minor ailments scheme where the pharmacist can prescribe for certain conditions.
This in turn could substantially reduce pressures on appointments at GP surgeries and this has been operating successfully in my region, Torfaen.
It has given patients access to treatment when it is needed, seven days a week in their local community. Essentially this service gives GPs the opportunity to deal with more serious problems and illnesses.
Not only that, Community Pharmacy claim that such a scheme could save up to £30m a year.
The Chartered Society of Physiotherapy is another organisation that is campaigning for improved direct access to healthcare professionals, such as physiotherapists and occupational therapists.
Self-referral gets faster access, without increased cost, and early intervention for lower back pain, for example, which can reduce recurrences and prevent lost working days and even more GP appointments.
It is patient centred, it saves valuable GP time. A self-referral pilot scheme is already running in Bridgend with some excellent results.
I see absolutely no reason why it can’t be delivered across Wales. It has the potential to benefit so many people in so many ways, both patients and healthcare professionals.
It’s a new year and a new chance to work hard to deliver a Health Service that really works. In the coming months I will be continuing to campaign to get the best out of the Welsh Health Service.
Article printed in the Western Mail
Shocking figures uncovered by the Welsh Liberal Democrats have revealed that tens of thousands of hours of emergency ambulance cover are being lost in Welsh NHS hospitals while crews wait to hand patients over to hospital staff.
Over the last two years, an outrageous 80,404 hours (3350 days or 9 years) have been wasted while ambulances are waiting to discharge their patients.
Guidelines set by the Health Minister currently state that the wait to hand over responsibility of a patient to nursing staff should be no longer than 20 minutes, but the target is clearly not being met.
Across Wales, the Royal Gwent Hospital was the worst performer amassing a staggering 15,909 lost hours with Morriston Hospital following with 11,962 lost hours and UHW wasting 9,986 hours. The Welsh Ambulance Service calculates that the cost of a ‘lost unit hour’ is £76 which means that time wasted in A&E hospitals cost the NHS over £6,000,000 over past two years.
Apart from causing distress to the patient waiting to be transferred to the A&E department, pressure is put on ambulance crews to respond to other emergency calls in the area.
Veronica German, Welsh Liberal Democrats Shadow Health Minister said:
“These figures are absolutely shocking. This proves that there is systemic failure in the way the Welsh NHS handles emergency situations. Month after month, we see that Welsh patients have to wait an unacceptable amount of time for ambulances to respond to emergency call-outs and now we see that ambulances have to wait an unacceptable amount of time to transfer patients and get back on the road to respond to emergency calls.
“Lost ambulance hours is a huge problem for the Welsh NHS and the figures uncovered by the Welsh Liberal Democrats reveal that the problem is getting worse. Not only are patients waiting in the ambulance to be discharged to the care of the A&E department, other patients across the region are waiting longer for an ambulance to arrive because they are stuck in the hospital.
“When I challenged the First Minister on this issue he said that the ambulance service is making good progress. There is no doubt that the service has improved its own operations and has dedicated crews working extremely hard in difficult circumstances. But it is clear that ambulances cannot attend calls if they are queuing outside hospitals. Year on year, more ambulances have to wait outside A&E department to discharge their patients. This is not an issue for the ambulance service but for the whole of the NHS in Wales. This is a totally unacceptable situation and it must change.
“On top of the staggering wasted ambulances hours across Wales, it is estimated that over £6 million was lost to the Welsh NHS over the last two years because of queuing ambulances. We should be looking for savings is the NHS not wasting money.
“I will be raising this very urgent matter with the First Minister and the Health Minister to ensure that the hard work of the emergency services is not thwarted by poor organisation and poor management of our NHS under this Labour-Plaid government.”
New analysis of NHS estates in Wales has revealed that the cost of maintenance and repairs to reduce high and significant risks in NHS buildings to staff and patients is nearly half of the total backlog cost.
The Welsh Health Estates report reveals that the total cost of the NHS repairs backlog is £460 million and that the sum of high and significant risk repairs totals £209 million. While the total backlog of maintenance cost has decreased, there were 51 sites across Wales showing increases totalling over £20 million.
The Estate and Performance Report 2009/2010 also exposes how none of the new health trusts in Wales reached operationally safe levels or complied with statutory and safety regulations last year.
The report shows:
• A total backlog of repairs of £460 million. (£209 million High and Significant Risk Cost)
• Two Health Trusts are still failing to meet fire safety regulations set for 2005 and 2008 (Cwm Taf, Powys Teaching)
• None of the Health Trusts met the 2008 target for statutory and safety regulations (DDA, asbestos, legionella, hazardous waste)
• None of the Health Trusts met the 2008 target of getting 90% of the health estate in a ‘sound, operationally safe and exhibit only minor deterioration’ standard.
• The cost of complying with fire safety code is estimated to be £14 million (an increase of £2million since 2008-2009)
• The total cost of implementing DDA work is nearly £16 million.
Veronica German, Welsh Liberal Democrat Shadow Health Minister said:
“This report is deeply worrying and shows the real extent of Labour’s financial mismanagement and poor running of our health system over the past years. This report also causes great concern as it reveals that nearly half of the backlog of repairs pose a high or significant risk to patients and staff.
“It is equally worrying that none of the health trusts met the targets to meet statutory regulations regarding Disability Discrimination Act, Control of legionella and Health and Safety at Work. I don’t think that it’s acceptable that doctors and nurses have to work in buildings that would have to close if they were nightclubs.
“The NHS in Wales has had since October 2004 to make sure that their buildings are DDA compliant, yet here we are, 6 years on, with £16 million worth of work to be done to ensure access for disable people.
“We know that money is tight and that the years to come will be difficult, however the Labour-Plaid Government has had years to address this issue and they failed. Labour has allowed a huge backlog of repairs to build up and now, when money is tight, they seek to address the problems. They are financially incompetent.
“I want a health service where we have decent and safe buildings where patients and staff can recover and work in without fear from injury or harm.”
Welsh Liberal Democrat Shadow Health Minister has welcomed news that Aneurin Bevan Health Board is putting plans in place to improve communication between hospitals and GPs.
Veronica German had written to the Health Board on behalf of a constituent who was concerned by the fact it had taken two to three weeks for information to get to the GP.
In response to Ms German’s enquires, Aneurin Bevan have stated that it was a high priority for the Health Board to improve clinical communications and that a project is being undertaken in collaboration with the NHS Wales Informatics Service to achieve this.
Ms German, Assembly Member for South Wales East, commented:
“Just before Christmas I was in contact with an elderly constituent who had to visit three separate consultants. She was feeling frustrated at how long it took for the consultants to feed back to her GP. She felt that she was being constantly let down by the system. It is a worrying time when waiting for feedback from consultants and it’s not right that in this day and age it can still take up to three weeks for information to finally come to the patient.
“After contacting Aneurin Bevan, I am pleased to report that funding has been secured to establish a project to design an electronic method to dispatch discharge notifications and clinic letters directly to GP practices. Hopefully this will mean that communication between consultants and GPs should not take anywhere near as long as it has done in the past, allowing patients to rest assured that as soon as information is available, they will have it.”
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.
South Wales East Assembly Member, Veronica German, has expressed her concerns on figures that show that life expectancy in Wales continues to grow at a slower rate than in England with the gap between England and Wales growing. The figures also revealed that that life expectancy still varies greatly from area to area. This week, Ms German raised the issue in the Senedd arguing that Wales was becoming increasingly unequal.
Ms German, Welsh Liberal Democrat Shadow Minister for Health and Wellbeing, commented:
“Despite 13 years of a so-called ‘progressive’ Labour government, the gap between the rich and the poor continues to widen. There is a clear correlation in these statistics between those areas that are poorer and those with lower life expectancy. It should not be the case in this day and age that those who are richer live longer.
“It is the people in my region that are on the receiving end of the Labour-Plaid Government’s failings. People with the lowest life expectancies are generally situated in the South Wales valleys, with Merthyr Tydfil and Blaenau Gwent having the lowest of all. This pattern has not changed substantially in the last decade as both areas also had the lowest life expectancy in Wales in 1991. What is the Assembly Government going to do about this? It is a disgrace that this has been allowed to happen under their watch.
“The biggest challenge for the NHS in Wales is to respond to health inequalities to ensure that services meet the needs and pressures in the different parts of Wales. So far, this Labour-Plaid Government has failed miserably to tackle these issues”.
Statistics can be found here: