Senedd Bites #90: Treatment fund cuts waiting times by 85%

(Title Image: Independent)

New Treatment Fund slashes waiting times

Three years after the launch of the New Treatment Fund – which aims to improve access to new medicines for Welsh patients – figures released by the Welsh Government shows the waiting time to access new medicines has dropped from 90 days to just 13 days.

The new medicines include those use to treat certain forms of cancer, diabetes, Crohn’s disease, and other conditions such as cystic fibrosis and hepatitis C.

Health Minister, Vaughan Gething (Lab, Cardiff S.& Penarth), said: “This fund is delivering precisely what we intended it to – much faster access to new treatments regardless of where in Wales you live. It is enabling us to transform the way healthcare is delivered. For some patients these medicines are life-saving, for others, they are bringing significant improvements to their lives.”

Rail powers should be devolved to stave off independence calls

Economy & Transport Minister, Ken Skates (Lab, Clwyd South) called for the UK Government to devolve rail infrastructure powers and budgets to Wales in line with Scotland to stave off what he described as growing support for Welsh independence.

Recent polling shows support for both independence and direct rule had increased and the Minister believes the current arrangements – where powers and budgets are mainly retained by the UK Government – cemented an “inferior” form of devolution and fueled perceptions that Welsh infrastructure was under-funded.

Ruthin School headteacher sacked

A week after the Education Minister threatened to suspend the private Ruthin School from providing full-time education, its headteacher, Toby Belfield, was sacked.

Estyn and Care Inspectorate Wales had raised serious concerns about pupil welfare at the school and the headteacher kept his job last year despite sending sexually suggestive social media messages to female students.

Round two of “mud dumping” row

Natural Resources Wales has received a second application to dump dredged mud from the under-construction Hinkley C nuclear power station in Somerset off the coast of Cardiff.

During 2017-18, there were lengthy arguments against the dredging in the Senedd and a petition against it over fears the mud is contaminated with radiation and hadn’t been tested appropriately.

NRW said: “We will only grant the licence if the company can demonstrate it complies with legal requirements and we’re confident the proposed activity will not harm people or the environment.”

AM memorial policy likely be reviewed

The Assembly Commission will review its policy regarding memorials to deceased former AMs on the Assembly estate after calls to change the current policy that memorials will only be allowed to AMs who died at least 10 years ago.

At present, only the former Labour AM, Val Feld (1947-2001), has a memorial in the form of a purple plaque with plans in place for a permanent memorial near the estate to former First Minister, Rhodri Morgan (1939-2017).

However, AMs across all parties have called for similar memorials to be put in place for recently-deceased AMs including former Minister, Carl Sargeant (1968-2017), and former Plaid Cymru AM, Steffan Lewis (1984-2019).

Llywydd, Elin Jones (Plaid, Ceredigion), said it was up to AMs as a whole to decide whether the policy should change, saying AMs should, “make those views known to….the Commission, but I need to have the policy and the decisions expressed in the context of the majority feeling of this assembly.”