FMQs: Welsh Government “running out of excuses” on A&E performance

The Environment, Energy & Rural Affairs Minister, Lesley Griffiths (Lab, Wrexham), was filling in for this afternoon as the First Minister was at Buckingham Palace for an event marking the Prince of Wales’ investiture.

I’ll let you make your own mind up about that one.

“Fully-fledged crisis” in A&E?

Putting aside his obvious displeasure about the First Minister’s absence, Adam Price AM (Plaid, Carms. E. & Dinefwr), compared A&E waiting time performance in Wales and Scotland.

According to the latest figures, in Scotland, fewer than 200 people waited longer than 12 hours in A&E; in Wales, 5,264 people waited longer than 12 hours. There were similar figures for the 4-hour waiting time target.

He believed the Welsh Government’s reasons didn’t stand up to scrutiny:

“What I would have asked (the First Minister), and now we’ll ask you instead, is are running out of excuses for the crisis in A&E?….Vaughan Gething (Health Minister) claimed winter stomach bugs were putting additional strain on the NHS…..the (health boards) which have provided us with data have shown this year’s numbers are not noticeably different from last year. Indeed, Betsi Cadwaladr – the worst performing health board for A&E – is treating fewer cases of winter stomach bugs this year that the previous two years.”
– Adam Price AM

The Minister said A&E admissions were 9% higher in January 2019 than January 2015 and on one weekend, staff at the University Hospital in Cardiff treated ten patients aged 100+. 14 of 24 emergency units reported improvements in the four-hour waiting time target in 2019 compared to 2018; the majority of people who go to A&E receive high-quality timely treatment.

“Shockingly small” percentage of addicts stay clean after undergoing NHS treatment

Leader of the Opposition, Paul Davies AM (Con, Preseli Pembs.), revealed that just 13.5% of substance abusers who undergo NHS treatment in Wales remain clean at the end of their course of treatment.

He accused the Welsh Government of having misplaced priorities:

“Now, my visit to the excellent Brynawel rehab centre recently….showed me how desperately help is needed for some of the most vulnerable in our society from centres like this. Just last month, the Health Minister dismissed calls to address the need for residential care, but despite pledging to ringfence £50 million for health boards to back substance misuse services, centres similar to Brynawel have closed across the country. And when tackled on the subject last month by a member of your own party, the Minister failed to commit to supporting what he described as really, a useful facility.”
– Leader of the Opposition, Paul Davies AM

The Minister was well aware of the “excellent” work being undertaken at Brynawel. She didn’t believe the Health Minister dismissed the matter in the way Paul Davies described. Nonetheless, she accepted there was a need to address postcode lotteries on substance abuse treatment and, at a national level, measures like minimum alcohol pricing would reduce the harm caused by excess drinking.

188% increase in funding for youth services (though check the small print)

Following the first meeting of the Welsh Youth Parliament towards the end of February, it was fitting that John Griffiths AM (Lab, Newport East) asked about youth services. He was more than aware that councils have had to make cuts to youth services due to austerity, but welcomed new funding announced by the Welsh Government in the 2019-20 budget. So did the Minister:

“….it’s a 188% increase in the funding for next year…..I mentioned the interim youth work board that has been set up, that was appointed back in October 2018 and it’s already met five times. I understand it’s in discussions with Lynne Neagle ( Chair of the Children & Young People Committee) to make sure the recommendations from her committee are brought to fruition. The board’s remit included the development of a new youth work strategy for Wales. It’s going to recommend a new sustainable model for youth work and certainly, we’ll be working with all our partners.”
– Environment, Energy & Rural Affairs Minister, Lesley Griffiths

Suzy Davies AM (Con, South Wales West) did, however, point out that recommendations from the Children’s Commissioner – that health-related advocacy should be available to all who need it – hasn’t been met three years after the recommendation was made.

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