FMQs:….actually, Health Questions

Health Minister, Vaughan Gething (Lab, Cardiff S. & Penarth), was filling in for the First Minister today due to illness. I assume the opposition changed their plans at the last minute too because all of their questions without notice had a health theme.

Minister rejects “complacency” accusation over Cwm Taf

Standing in for Adam Price, Helen Mary Jones AM (Plaid, Mid & West Wales) raised the joint report by the Wales Audit Office and Healthcare Inspectorate into Cwm Taf Morgannwg health board. She said the report would make “hard reading”.

“The report raises concerns that this was a board that appeared from the outside to be performing well if you measured them against the Welsh Government’s targets, and that the pressure to meet financial targets skewed the board’s focus away from the quality of patient experience. Now, I would ask the Minister, given that he sets the targets, whether he accepts that, given that despite eight reports, surveys and visits into Cwm Taf that should have led to action being taken, it took a ninth report for him to do anything?”
– Helen Mary Jones AM

If, after 20 years of Labour rule, he’s unable to transform services the way he would like then it was about time he “got out of the way”.

The Minister said he has acted and believes the joint report will provide honesty and clarity on what’s happening there. A second update on maternity services (currently subject to special measures) is due in January. He says he takes the role very seriously and it was “distasteful” to suggest he was in any way complacent on the matter.

Lights, Camera, Action

With it being gaffe season, the Leader of the Opposition, Paul Davies AM (Con, Preseli Pembs.) questioned Labour’s purported pride in the NHS.

“….why on earth did your party feel the need to hire an actress to play a nurse in your recent party political broadcast?….Is the reason, as today’s report confirms, it appears you presided over a culture of fear and blame that has resulted in staff feeling unable to speak out and raise concerns? Is it because your abysmal record of delivering health services is so poor that you couldn’t find anyone working in the NHS to support your campaign?”
– Leader of the Opposition, Paul Davies AM

The Minister said there had to be a distinction between the Welsh Government and Labour. In a separate answer to Andrew RT Davies AM (Con, South Wales Central) earlier in the session, he said the party hired the actress and once it became clear, withdrew the broadcast.

“In terms of staff feedback….actually, the feedback from our staff is positive about their feelings of this Government, certainly in comparison to the alternative across our border. We have a public service, we take seriously the investment we make in staff. I’ve invested a record sum in training the future of our health service. You’ll have seen last week a 13% increase in the budget for future healthcare staff, record numbers of nurses, midwives and therapists being trained, record numbers of GP trainees….”
– Health Minister, Vaughan Gething

32-hour-week and the NHS

Mark Reckless AM (BXP, South Wales East) tried to assess the impact one of Labour’s new policies – a 32-hour working week – would have on the NHS. Another UK Labour policy is to end opt-outs of the maximum 48-hour working week, which consultants are currently allowed to do to undertake private work.

The Minister said that for someone who stands on no manifesto, Mark Reckless was regularly interested in what promises other parties make to the electorate. A 32-hour week is an aspiration over 10 years and he wasn’t going to be drawn on hypotheticals in an unpublished manifest – though he did accept that the future of the consultant workforce in general needs to be looked at.

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