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Public needs to lose weight to help cut NHS waiting lists, says health minister

18 Apr 2024 5 minute read
Minister for Health and Social Services Eluned Morgan

The public needs to lose weight to help tackle growing NHS waiting lists, the Welsh health minister has said.

Eluned Morgan, the cabinet secretary for health and social services in Wales’ Labour-run devolved Government, has warned the health system could become “unsustainable” if people do not lead healthier lives and reduce the burden on the NHS.

Ms Morgan particularly highlighted the impact that obesity and diabetes can have on the service.

It comes as the latest NHS statistics for Wales show the number of individual patients waiting for treatment hit 591,600 in February, the highest on record and an increase of 5,100 from December.

However, Ms Morgan has insisted that some areas of the waiting lists are beginning to improve.


Speaking following a visit to the University Hospital of Wales (UHW), Ms Morgan said: “What we’ve been trying to do is to concentrate on the longest waiters.

“I’m very pleased that 97% of people on our waiting list are not waiting more than two years – that’s true for six out of the seven hospitals in Wales.”

While Ms Morgan accepted the Welsh NHS has a “long way to go”, she said the real issue was the need to “stem the demand”.

She said: “For that to happen, I think we have all got a role to play, we can all live healthier lives.

“And we, as a Government, have a role to stand by the public in helping them to live healthier lives as well.

“The fact is that in Wales, 60% of adults are overweight or obese and we spend 10% of our budget on diabetes, which has a direct relationship with people being overweight.

“If that continues on the trajectory that we’re on at the moment, then the system will become unsustainable.”

Vaughan Gething

Ms Morgan’s visit to the UHW was her first since being reinstated as the health minister following Vaughan Gething’s election as the First Minister of Wales in March.

She said that Mr Gething has “made it very clear” that the NHS is at the top of the agenda for him, calling the additional funding he has promised “really heartening”.

It is hoped this will end the cycle of strike action by doctors.

Junior doctors have already been on strike three times this year, which is estimated to cost the health service £1.0 million a day.

Consultants were due to start industrial action this week, but this was called off after the Welsh Government made a “significant proposal”.

Ms Morgan said: “It’s great that today, we might have been having strikes, but we’re going now into negotiations on Monday.

“That in itself is an early success, but it’s very much the beginning of the process and negotiation.”

Ms Morgan said a “not insubstantial amount of money” had been put on the table but did not specify how much.

She also said she accepted that doctors have been working under immense pressure and that high levels of inflation had “eroded the value” of health workers’ salaries.

“We have to balance that off against all of the other demands that are on the NHS at the moment, this money would be going, otherwise, to things like digital transformation, which also is essential and needed within the NHS.

“So there is an opportunity cost to giving money to staff, but the NHS does not work without staff.”

Asked if she has spoken to Rachel Reeves, the shadow chancellor, to ask for extra money should Labour win the next general election, Ms Morgan said the Conservatives had left the economy in a “very fragile state”.

“That means there’s less room for manoeuvre for an upcoming Labour government,” she said.


Commenting on the latest NHS statistics for Wales, Sam Rowlands MS, the Welsh Conservative Shadow Health Minister said: “This abysmal set of statistics show why the Labour Welsh Government need to be held accountable for their performance running our Welsh NHS. I look forward to putting forward positive solutions to that end in my new role.

“Unlike in Conservative-run England, where waiting lists are being cut, the Labour Government have presided over yet another increase to the detriment of Welsh patients.

“The Welsh Conservatives want to see our Welsh NHS fully resourced with the entire Barnett uplift for health and a substantial workforce boosting plan implemented to tackle these excessive waits for treatment.”

Plaid Cymru spokesperson for Health and Social Care, Mabon ap Gwynfor MS said: “On every measure, the NHS in Wales is going backwards under Labour. Over half of the most urgent calls to emergency responders were not answered within the target time, nearly one in five of the population are now on waiting lists, and more cancer patients are waiting longer to start their first definitive treatment.

“Make no mistake, the Labour Government cannot be trusted with our NHS.

“Labour had an opportunity to press the reset button by selecting a new First Minister and Cabinet, but they decided to go for more of the same. Instead of taking responsibility for their failures, the Labour Government’s default position is deflect and blame our Doctors or blame the people of Wales.

“A Plaid Cymru Government would tackle the root cause of the issues facing the NHS – invest in our staff, create a workforce strategy which gets to grips with recruitment and retention issues across the NHS, and invest in social care.

“Unlike Labour, we have the ambition to fix our NHS to deliver better outcomes for people across Wales.”

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Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
1 month ago

Start with your fellow MS’s and hospital staff, lead by example !

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
1 month ago

Good for you Mabon, tell it like it is…the deadly situation they have us in…

If Gething cared about us he would have sacked the Baroness, but he can’t, can he !

1 month ago

Excess body weight is a problem at all levels of society. Maybe the “well to do” have the best means of doing something about it but often they seem to be very slow in acting. Eluned would do well to start with some of the big bulks at Y Senedd. A “no booze in the building” rule could be enforced too!

Why vote
Why vote
1 month ago

Just ban or charge a pay as you eat and drink tax on anything you think is a problem, processed food, food with additives, alcohol, snacks, cakes. Sweets, carbonated soft drinks. Then double the cost of anything that is left. Or change society to walk run or cycle everywhere become vegetarian drink only water rid themselves of their cars and live in 15 minute citys. Problem solved………….. only taking the p so please do not use as a basis for a new political ideology for the future of humanity in wales.

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