Wales needs to have ‘national conversation’ about future of the NHS after ‘two decades of getting worse’ say Tories
Wales needs to have a “national conversation” about the future of the NHS after two decades of “getting perpetually worse” the Welsh Conservatives’ health spokesperson has said.
His comments came as the numbers on waiting lists for non-urgent hospital treatment in Wales hit record levels for the 18th successive month.
One in five people in Wales – 679,626 individuals – were on a NHS waiting lists in October, nearly 11,000 more than the previous month and up by 50% since the start of the Covid pandemic.
Conservative Senedd Member Russell George said that the Covid pandemic was a factor but that the Welsh NHS had been slowly deteriorating for a long time before then.
“It is clear that Labour has lost its grip on the NHS,” he said. “But we all must also have a serious national conversation on how we learn to live with this virus and the increasing demands we, as a nation, put on our national health service.
“Although coronavirus and the pent-up demand from previous lockdowns is obviously a huge factor in today’s damning statistics, there has to come a point when things get better.
“However, Labour’s record over two decades is one where things have gotten perpetually worse: doubling the waiting list in the year before Covid struck, experiencing its worst-ever A&E waits the year before the pandemic, and removing conditions like strokes from the red-call ambulance criteria.”
The Welsh Government said that the continued pandemic meant that waiting times would continue to rise.
“Our immediate focus is now on ensuring we deal with this next difficult phase of the pandemic and that patients can receive urgent care when they need it,” they said.
“It is encouraging to see improvement in the ambulance performance for November. But they and emergency departments remain under pressure.”
The NHS Confederation in Wales, which represents health boards, said the whole of the health and care system was “working tirelessly to find both short and long-term solutions” to the challenges faced.
“The performance in some areas, for example in urgent and emergency care, is improving month-on-month but there are still enormous challenges ahead,” said director Darren Hughes.
The number of people waiting over two years increased by 8,253 in a single month, a 28.6% jump to 35,483. Around 2,000 extra people are now also waiting over a year compared to September.
Additional figures showed a third (33.34%) of patients had to wait over the four hour target to be seen in A&E last month, the third-worst month for the Welsh NHS on record.
Betsi Cadwaladr Health Board, which covers North Wales, was the worst performing in the nation against the four-hour A&E target, seeing only 62% in four hours. Wrexham Maelor Hospital saw fewer than half its patients (42.2%) in four hours, making it the worst performing in Wales.
When it came to ambulance performance in November, only 53% of responses to immediately life-threatening calls arrived within eight minutes. The target of 65% of red-calls reaching their patient within eight minutes has not been reached in 16 months.
The slowest ambulances were in the Powys health board area with only 41.8% arriving within the eight-minute target, but three other health boards posted a figure under 50%.
Three-in-four (74.2%) amber call patients – which include strokes – took over 30 minutes to be reached. This was most acute in Swansea Bay with only 16.8% of calls arriving within half an hour.
Welsh Conservative and Shadow Health Minister Russell George MS said: “Moving forward, we need to relieve pressures on A&E in three steps: encouraging use of other services like minor injury units and community pharmacists, rolling out regional surgical hubs to deal with the treatment backlog, and making it far easier to access GP services.”