FMQs: First Minister stands by under-fire Health Minister

Mark Drakeford still has confidence in the Health Minister

As the fallout continues from last week’s reports into the Cwm Taf maternity service scandal, Leader of the Opposition, Paul Davies AM (Con, Preseli Pembs.) asked straight-up whether the First Minister still had confidence in his Health Minister (a motion of confidence is due to be debated tomorrow).

“….look at the facts and let’s look at your Minister’s record, shall we? Since Vaughan Gething became Health Minister in 2014, there has been a catalogue of failures – five out of seven health boards are in special measures or targeted intervention. The A&E waiting time target of 95% of patients being seen in four hours has never been met….Under Vaughan Gething’s leadership, the number of patients seen within four hours has shockingly dropped further from 86% when he was appointed in 2014, to a disgraceful 78% now.”
– Leader of the Opposition, Paul Davies

The First Minister accused Paul Davies of offering a “partial and distorted account”; under Vaughan Gething ambulance response times have improved since a new traffic light call recording system was introduced. The Health Minister also took decisive action in ordering the reviews at Cwm Taf in the first place. The Health Minister’s response has been “commendable”.

Poverty is unacceptable; it’s austerity’s fault

Filling in for Adam Price, Rhun ap Iorwerth AM (Plaid, Ynys Môn) asked about poverty rates; 29% of children in Wales were living in relative poverty – was that acceptable?

“Of course, that is unacceptable, Llywydd. In the first decade of devolution, the number of children living in poverty in Wales went down year-on-year. What we’re talking about is the period of austerity….We are doing everything that we can as a Government, but the responsibility lies in the hands of the United Kingdom Government, because of the actions they’ve taken in the field of benefits, for example. That is what is creating the numbers of children living in poverty in Wales.”
– First Minister, Mark Drakeford (Lab, Cardiff West)

Rhun wasn’t going to stop there. Numerous governments in the Senedd have missed poverty reduction targets. In a few weeks time, AMs will debate a cross-party motion calling for a comprehensive anti-poverty strategy. Backbenchers are eager to take action, but the Welsh Government isn’t.

The First Minister rejected that view. There have been a number of actions taken by the government to assist children in relative poverty, such as school uniform grants, free school meals and taking a national approach to tackle hunger during school holidays.

Are private hospitals filling a community hospital shaped gap?

Llyr Gruffydd AM (Plaid, North Wales) asked about community hospitals, to which the First Minister said that moving services from acute hospitals to community hospitals was central to the NHS’s future, demonstrated by a £40million investment in a new community hospital at Rhyl. But….

“Would you agree with me that a private hospital that’s about to be built in the St Asaph area shows that the closure of community hospitals back in 2013 was a mistake? Because some 50 beds were lost when the community hospitals were lost in Flint, Llangollen, Prestatyn and Blaenau Ffestiniog. Now, many of us warned….at the time that that step-up, step-down provision was required, particularly with an ageing population in north Wales. But the health board and your Government insisted on the closure of those hospitals.”
– Llyr Gruffydd AM

The First Minister didn’t agree with it at all. It’s crucial that community hospital services are modernised and at many new community hospitals more services are provided to their respective communities that were there before. The fact a private hospital has been planned in north Wales didn’t mean anything regarding public sector services in north Wales.

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