FMQs: Doctors should decide the future of health services, not politicians

Labour, not devolution, the problem for north Wales

Pouncing on UK Labour leadership candidate Lisa Nandy MP’s comments that devolution wasn’t working for people in north Wales, Leader of the Opposition, Paul Davies AM (Con, Preseli Pembs.) believed that the problem lies now with devolution, but the party running Wales.

He was in no doubt why people in the north think this way: health.

“….the people of north Wales feel rightly let down by your government and frustrated at the lack of progress being made to tackle the issues that matter most to them, particularly health services. It should be a great source of embarrassment and concern that Betsi Cadwaladr Health Board is the worst-performing health board when it comes to A&E waiting times, with just 66.8% of patients being seen within the critical four-hour period….But yet whenever anyone raises an issue or scrutinises your record, like today, you tell us we’re dragging the NHS through the mud.”
– Leader of the Opposition, Paul Davies AM

The First Minister believed the Tory leader had misinterpreted what Lisa Nandy said; this wasn’t about institutions of devolution itself, but feeling disconnected from decisions made on their behalf – and he agreed with that assessment. There was also little point picking up Betsi Cadwaladr’s performance because there were issues everywhere.

“Listen to experts” on health service changes

It was an inevitability that the row over A&E services at the Royal Glamorgan Hospital would make an appearance and Adam Price AM (Plaid, Carms. E. & Dinefwr) put the First Minister on the spot by asking who was responsible for making A&E services at the hospital unsafe, with staff members well below UK standards.

When he was told “the local health board”, Adam Price pointed to the Welsh Government’s website which lists oversight of NHS delivery and performance as one of the Labour-run government’s responsibilities.

“During the recent general election, Labour’s shadow Health Secretary, Jonathan Ashworth, highlighted the ‘extreme’ and ‘catastrophic’ risk as a result of losing some 24-hours services in north-east England. His answer: ‘We pledge that within the first 100 days of a Labour Government we will get on top of this.’ You’ve been in charge of Wales not for 100 days, but 20 years. Where have you been?”
– Adam Price AM

The First Minister said some of the figures Adam Price quoted were wrong. There’s record investment in health and more A&E consultants were working than ever before; any present shortage is UK-wide.

While not rejecting the idea that the public and politicians should have their say, they had to engage with Cwm Taf health board on their proposals.

“The point I made yesterday, and I make it again this afternoon, is that when a decision has to be made as to whether a service is safe, whether it is of the right quality and whether it is sustainable into the future, then the right people to ask about that when the decision comes to be made, not while the decision is in preparation, are the people who are experts in the service that is being provided. I think that is a really important principle….”
– First Minister, Mark Drakeford (Lab, Cardiff West)

Wales should have a say in post-Brexit trade

Mark Reckless AM (BXP, South Wales East) pointed to reports from CSA Group that it could step up production in the UK in the event of tariffs with the EU, while Nissan was reportedly planning to shift production from the EU to the UK. In light of this, as First Minister does he still think that the UK Government should agree its trade policies with Wales or face a veto?

The First Minister believes it’s premature to discuss the impacts of Brexit whilst there’s been no material change due to the transition period. His position is that when the UK starts to negotiate new trade deals, its hand would be strengthened if it had the backing of all the UK’s governments and structures should be put in place to ensure this happened.


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