Health Minister rejects call to resign over Cwm Taf reports

(Title Image: Wales Online)

Here’s a summary of this afternoon’s Health Questions.

Health Minister “will see through Cwm Taf intervention”

Helen Mary Jones AM (Plaid, Mid & West Wales) focused on management and responsibility in the NHS, particularly in light of yesterday’s Cwm Taf maternity service reports. Accountability is often of great concern to AMs yet despite various interventions in health boards very little changes. The Health Minister couldn’t absolve himself of his own responsibilities:

“….when asked by ITV does the buck stop with him, the Minister’s response was that the buck stops with everyone. Well, Llywydd, that buck does not stop with everyone – the buck stops with the Minister. I’m going to ask him again to consider his position, and, if he is unable to consider his position, to explain what more serious situation would occur in the Welsh NHS, what more has to go wrong, before he is prepared to take personal responsibility?”
– Helen Mary Jones AM

Health Minister, Vaughan Gething (Lab, Cardiff S. & Penarth), told AMs it was incorrect to say no progress has been made where health boards have received interventions; some departments in the Betsi Cadwaladr board have been taken out of special measures.

With regard to Cwm Taf, the seriousness wasn’t apparent in previous reports and it’s only now the full picture has emerged. He wasn’t Health Minister for the whole time there were problems there and it was his responsibility to see through the intervention:

“Now, when I say, ‘Who has a share of responsibility?’, everyone in this health service does have a share of responsibility….But, ultimately, I’m the Minister for Health and Social Services, and I have overall responsibility for what happens. I’m far from complacent about my responsibilities, not only in the sense of the whole performance of the service, not just the challenges but the good that the service does. But my responsibility is to see through the improvement that I recognise is plainly required, and I am determined to see delivered.”
– Health Minister, Vaughan Gething

Paying for Social Care

Shadow Social Care Minister, Janet Finch-Saunders AM (Con, Aberconwy), described the situation regarding social care funding in Wales as “serious”. A clear vision for the future was needed, not the continuous rhetoric in the chamber. A new model for funding social care has been proposed in England as a pension-style system; what was being done in Wales?

The Minister said it was an unavoidable reality that the Welsh budget has been cut due to UK Government austerity. More progress on the future of social care would’ve been made if the UK Government “had been an honest dealer in this”. The short-term solution was to end austerity in order to boost local government budgets.

Orthopaedic patients still waiting two years in north Wales

Darren Millar AM (Con, Clwyd West) asked about lengthy waiting times in north Wales to access orthopaedic surgery – currently two years. He added that the Countess of Chester Hospital situation won’t help matters. Rhun ap Iorwerth AM (Plaid, Ynys Môn) said a constituent waiting for a knee replacement was expected to wait 110 weeks.

“The situation with the Countess of Chester Hospital, which took a significant number of referrals from north-east Wales, is going to make waiting times longer and more difficult to achieve in terms of the targets. When will you wake up, make sure that the Countess of Chester Hospital gets the funding it needs to care for the Welsh patients that need access to that service so that we can get these waiting times down, and when will you sign off the orthopaedic waiting time plan, which has been sat on your desk for 18 months, in order that these patients can get access to the treatment they need within the waiting time target?”
– Darren Millar AM

The Health Minister said there was no agreed orthopaedic plan – and he was as frustrated as Darren in terms of waiting times and the length of time it’s taking for a plan to be finalised. He rejected any suggestion Wales was behaving inappropriately towards Chester Hospital; “each and every year, the Welsh system has paid its bills in full and on time.”

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