Welsh Government must address NHS workforce shortage says BMA Cymru
The British Medical Association Cymru Wales has urged the Welsh Government to take “urgent action” to address a workforce shortage which has led to a permanent position of ‘fire-fighting’ to deliver treatment and tackle waiting lists.
Figures released on Thursday showed growing waiting lists, delays in cancer treatments and over a third of patients spending more than four hours waiting to be seen in A&E.
The target is for 95% of people to be seen in A&E within this time.
Across Wales there were over 91,000 attendances to all NHS Wales emergency departments during October, which is an average of 2,949 emergency department attendances per day and an increase of 70 attendances more per day on average than in the previous month.
The number of patient pathways has also increased, rising from 750,283 in August 2022 to 754,677 in September 2022.
The Welsh Government say that as some people have multiple open pathways, the number of patient pathways is not the same as the number of individual patients.
This means that there were around 590,000 individual patients on treatment waiting lists in Wales, an increase of about 2,100 patients from the previous month.
Dr Iona Collins, Chair BMA Welsh Council, said: “I speak on behalf of doctors in Wales when I say, quite simply, that these figures are not good enough.
“Welsh Government has already provided health boards with additional funds, specifically to address the additional waiting list backlog, but the funds are not enough, with health boards over-spending on their budgets while trying their best to reduce the waiting lists.
“More money needs to be directed into frontline NHS services, so we can move away from record-breaking waiting lists for both emergency and scheduled NHS care.
“We need to acknowledge and rectify the lack of resources in the Welsh NHS in comparison to healthcare services elsewhere.
“We need to accept that the number of frontline staff vacancies is driving up the demand for agency ad hoc cover as a permanent fire-fighting tactic, and we need to address this workforce shortage, initially by gathering data to assess the true extent of the problem.
“BMA Cymru is calling for more action to be taken urgently. We cannot continue to watch our NHS failing and patients’ health deteriorating, as reflected by today’s figures.
“When staffing and resource deficits are corrected, patients in Wales will get the care they deserve.”
A Welsh Government spokesperson said: “Our NHS continues to face unprecedented demand and is seeing thousands of people every day. In hospitals alone, more than 361,000 consultations were carried out in September.
“Over 99,000 patient pathways were closed in September, back to pre-pandemic levels and 6% more than August, and an all-time record 13,856 people were seen and told they don’t have cancer.
“Progress continues to be made on the longest waits. The number of patient pathways waiting more than two years for treatment has fallen for the sixth month in a row and is down by 19 per cent since the peak in March. Waits over 36 weeks also went down in September, by 3% compared to August.
“Primary care, ambulance and emergency department staff remain under intense pressure. As an example, October saw the highest number and proportion of ‘red’/ immediately life-threatening calls on record.
“A further indication of the complexity of patient need is the number of patients admitted to the same or a different hospital following attendance at a major emergency department, which was 27.1% higher than September 2022.
Welsh Conservatives have also hit out at the Welsh government saying the ability of NHS Wales to treat people and protect staff ‘stands on a knife edge’.
Welsh Conservative Shadow Health Minister Russell George MS said: “When we see nearly a quarter of the population on an NHS waiting list, the slowest ambulance response times on record, and Britain’s worst A&E waits, I think it is more than fair to say that NHS Wales’ ability to treat patients stands upon the edge of a knife.
“All of this is compounded with a near-nationwide nurses strike and a secondary waiting list where an additional 460,000 people are waiting for follow-up appointments for their treatment, which is clearly affecting the wellbeing of staff as well as patients.
“I simply do not understand why Labour ministers are ignoring are calls for surgical hubs and winter war rooms to deal with these dangerously long waiting times when we see them leading to very visible progress in England.
“But should we expect anything different from a Labour Government that said it would be ‘foolish’ to publish an NHS recovery plan before the pandemic ended – an attitude that has led us to this very situation? Labour need to get a grip on the NHS and stop breaking all the wrong records.”
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How do they do that with a recalcitrant Westminster?