Health Secretary “doesn’t accept” criticisms from former NHS boss

(Title Image: BBC Wales)

“Neither capacity nor capability”

Starting with a more topical issue at Health Questions, Rhun ap Iorwerth AM (Plaid, Ynys Môn) raised the criticisms revealed on BBC’s Wales Live by Prof. Siobhan McClelland – who’s led a number of high-level reviews of the NHS in Wales – regarding the standard of treatment offered to her husband, who has prostate cancer.

Prof. McClelland claims that there was “neither the capacity nor capability” within the Welsh Government to make good health policy and that health boards were, at the same time, unanswerable to patients and not subject to sufficient control by the Welsh Government.

This was rejected by the Health Secretary:

“I am, of course, sorry that Prof.McClelland has cause—and, from the statement made by the health board, good cause—to complain about the care that her husband has received. I’m also sorry that she feels the need to change where they live. But I don’t accept the system-wide criticism that she makes of the NHS here in Wales.”
– Health Secretary, Vaughan Gething (Lab, Cardiff S. & Penarth)

He went on to cite OECD reports which said there were no system-wide problems and a parliamentary review which didn’t pick up any of these criticisms either.

When Rhun suggested that people will look at the additional money being given to the NHS in the latest budget and consider it a bail-out for poor management/a “fire-fighting fund”, the Health Secretary insinuated that Plaid Cymru wanted the health budget cut and he was only keeping promises made to the NHS and local government on how health and social care will be delivered.

Suicide Prevention

Shadow Health Secretary, Angela Burns AM (Con, Carms. W & S. Pembs) asked what the Welsh Government were doing to reduce suicides.

“It cannot be right that one in three people who die by suicide have been in contact with mental health services in the year before their death. It goes beyond a doubt that we’re failing to support some of our most vulnerable members of society and to provide effective support. Patients in Wales are consistently exposed to lengthy waits for assessment.”
– Shadow Health Secretary, Angela Burns AM

The Health Secretary said that while one in three have been in contact, two in three hadn’t – so there was a challenge in reaching those people. Part of a £35million investment into mental health and learning disabilities next year will go towards crisis care.

Angela thought Welsh Government budget reporting was often so “opaque” it was difficult to tell precisely where that £35million was going, though the Health Secretary confirmed that it was additional money and wasn’t coming from any other budget.

PrEP & HIV

Dr Dai Lloyd AM (Plaid, South Wales West) asked for an update on pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) and its impact on HIV rates.

The Health Secretary confirmed that amongst the 559 people who’ve started PrEP treatment, none have contracted HIV.

With that good news, Dai turned to costs with generic PrEP likely to be significantly cheaper than branded drugs. He hoped that when generic drugs arrive, the savings difference will be used to promote PrEP to groups who aren’t currently accessing it in the right numbers.

The Health Secretary was non-committal in that respect and didn’t want to set a precedent which prevents funds from being moved between different parts of the health service.

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