Health Minister rejects health board chief’s “micromanagement” comments

(Title Image: Swansea Bay University Health Board)

Here’s a summary of this afternoon’s health questions.

Call for sight-saving treatment on the NHS

Shadow Health Minister, Angela Burns AM (Con, Carms. W. & S. Pembs.), said that while treatment for keratoconus wasn’t available on the NHS, it was available privately at NHS hospitals:

“Minister, for £2,000 you can nip down to the Princess of Wales Hospital in Bridgend – which, the last time I looked, was an NHS hospital – and you can pay an NHS surgeon, in his spare time, for £2,000, to actually give you the treatment that saves the sight in your eye. I fail to see that that’s to do with capacity; I think it’s to do with will.”
– Shadow Health Minister, Angela Burns AM

Even though there’s a chance the disease will return, treatment can still give someone an extra few years of sight. Relaying a constituent’s question: “Why, for the sake of £2,000, was the NHS happy to see me lose my sight?”

The Health Minister, Vaughan Gething (Lab, Cardiff S. & Penarth), said he had received correspondence on this from a number of AMs and was willing to look at it again. However, it wasn’t a matter of will, but the effective use of resources and also access to the skilled staff needed to carry out certain procedures.

Amber 999 calls for stroke victims

Helen Mary Jones AM (Plaid, Mid & West Wales) told the chamber the median response time for “amber” (serious, but not life-threatening) 999 calls has more than doubled from around 12 minutes to 26 minutes over three years. An FOI request revealed more than 4,000 patients waited longer than an hour for an ambulance when they’d suffered a stroke between January 2018-March 2019.

Strokes can be devastating, so will the Minister consider setting a binding target time for treatment of strokes – a call made by The Stroke Association?

The Minister told AMs the Welsh ambulance response model has been replicated across the UK and it’s made a positive difference – particularly in responding to life-threatening “red” 999 calls.

“….if the evidence changes, then I’m more than prepared to look again at that evidence and whether it’s still the right decision. But at this point in time, it would be just dishonest for me to say that I’m going to look again at a recent review that’s taken place when, in the last few months, I’ve reported to this Chamber on the work that I’ve already outlined.”
– Health Minister, Vaughan Gething

Micromanaging health boards

Caroline Jones AM (BXP, South Wales West) brought up recent comments by (the soon-to-be-former) Chair of Swansea Bay Health Board, Andrew Davies, that the Welsh Government were “micromanaging” the affairs of health boards.

While the Health Minister was somewhat magnanimous – saying that while not seeing eye-to-eye on everything, Andrew Davies should take credit for overcoming some serious challenges at the board – he rejected any idea of “micromanaging”; it was all about balance:

“I don’t share the view of the outgoing Chair of the Swansea Bay Health Board. I think it’s important that there is a link, and Members…..regularly encourage, if not demand, that I and my officials, take an even greater role in holding parts of the health service to account and intervene on an even more granular level than we do presently. But certainly, through the winter, there are regular conference calls with every health board about performance, particularly in an unscheduled care system.


“There is always going to be a balance about where you intervene and where you ask and where you scrutinise and where you leave trusted parts of the system to progress. “
– Health Minister, Vaughan Gething

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