(Title Image: Powys Health Board)
Here’s a summary of this afternoon’s questions to the Health Minister, Vaughan Gething (Lab, Cardiff S. & Penarth).
Further questions on NHS winter pressures
Helen Mary Jones AM (Plaid, Mid & West Wales) got a sense of deja vu from successive ministerial claims about the NHS during the winter period:
“I have been looking back at the Minister’s statements around winter pressures over the past three years, and he always says the same things. He always talks about norovirus and flu, and he says the same things when you have a challenging year when you have lots of norovirus and flu, and he says the same things when, as in this year, in fact, the situation is not that challenging.”
– Helen Mary Jones AM
Accepting that the situation has improved in areas such as unscheduled care, could she have an assurance that we won’t be having these conversations again in 20 years?
Using the most urgent 999 calls as an example, the Minister said increase seen this winter is the sort of increase you would otherwise expect over several years. There has been some progress in getting health and social services working together but it comes down to people living longer with diseases that are not a part of the natural ageing process which results in patients attending hospital being more vulnerable than in previous years.
Cash for carers
Shadow Social Services Minister, Janet Finch-Saunders AM (Con, Aberconwy), called for better recognition and support for the “selfless army” of an estimated 370,000 unpaid carers in Wales. The number of carers who have had a care needs assessment undertaken by their local authority (as stipulated in the Social Services & Wellbeing Act) simply wasn’t high enough.
The draft budget for 2020-21 allocates £40 million to deal with expected pressures in social care, with £30 million allocated last year for a similar purpose; was this enough money?
The Deputy Minister told her that ultimately it was for local councils to decide how to use the money, with the money being used for a wide variety of different reasons:
“The decision as to how it was used was left largely to the local authorities because they are closer to their (carers) needs. But certainly, we know of the sorts of issues that they used that £30 million for. Nine local authorities utilised this funding to support adult and older people’s services. Eight local authorities used the funding to support domiciliary care for older people. Eleven local authorities used a portion to increase wages across the sector….”
– Deputy Minister for Health & Social Services, Julie Morgan (Lab, Cardiff North)
Differing rates of doctors pay no barrier to recruitment
Eager to maintain a record of mentioning England for the sake of it (which must rival John Inverdale), Mark Reckless AM (BXP, South Wales East) compared rates of pay for doctors. While in Wales first-year junior doctors are paid up to £1,500 more than England, by the second year it flips with Welsh junior doctors seeing a £700 increase compared to £2,800 in England right up to registrars where pay is £1,000 higher in England. While these were relatively small differences, were they impacting recruitment and retention?
The Minister said pay decision in Wales are informed through negotiations by industrial bodies like the BMA and the Welsh Government were said to have done the right thing by not imposing a similar contract to England. Recruitment was also about more than pay.
“There’s certainly no agenda given to try to somehow save a small amount of money and to try to risk recruitment and retention because doctors look at a much wider suite of things. They look at training, they look at excellence, the future of the services and whether they believe that’s somewhere they want to work. That’s why we have a campaign like ‘Train. Work. Live.’, because all those aspects make a difference to where a whole range of health professionals choose to locate themselves for their careers.”
– Health Minister, Vaughan Gething