Rhun ap Iorwerth, Plaid Cymru Shadow Ministr for Health
Words seem inadequate to express my overwhelming gratitude to health and care staff for the work they have done to keep us all safe during such an overwhelmingly difficult year.
Despite the challenges and the gruelling shifts, despite the fatigue and the online abuse, despite the harmful claims that the virus is simply a hoax, despite it all – they have persisted.
We have seen many a video going viral online documenting the toll the work has taken on them – the physical effects of wearing PPE all day every day, and the psychological impact of witnessing the deaths of patients, or having to tell family after family that their loved ones didn’t make it.
They deserve more. They deserve better.
Government owes our health and care staff so much more. More pay. More protection. More respect.
They need more than weekly applause. They need real change. They need real support.
They need assurances that the vaccination programme ensures the prioritisation of frontline health and care workers.
The establishment of a National Health and Care Service, as I and my party have repeatedly called for, would too reflect the true appreciation needed for the workforce.
This joined-up service would revolutionise health and care in Wales, and should include parity of pay and the same terms and conditions for care workers as NHS staff.
A new integrated Health and Care framework would bring new focus on the preventative. Early intervention would help prevent the development of chronic conditions and loss of independence, and would help realise the goal of keeping people within their communities and own homes, outside of residential care for as long as possible. This preventative approach would in turn ease pressure on health services.
More substantial change is needed than giving care workers a one-off £500 bonus, as welcome as that will be to hard-up families. Our care workers, elderly population, and families across Wales deserve a service with their best interests at heart.
Plaid Cymru is willing to offer this substantial change in the form of a National Health and Care service to provide care free at the point of delivery.
As well as clapping, all of us must also do what we can to keep pressure off the NHS. We must stay at home, and keep risks to a minimum.
We must find the strength, because I know it has been tough for us all, to persevere through the next period until vaccinations are widespread and restrictions can begin to ease once more.
We owe it to our health and care workers.