When I say that our NHS is under significant pressure, it won’t come as any surprise to anyone.
Waiting times for treatment are ever increasing, with a staggering one-in-five people in Wales now stuck on a waiting list. And, since my election to the Senedd, I’ve received reams of deeply disturbing health-related cases from constituents. These, often harrowing cases and their stories are unacceptable in this day and age.
And meanwhile our social care services are under massive pressure, with well-documented issues in staffing recruitment and retention stretching services to the limit with many hundreds of hours of need not being met in the county each week.
We know there are issues across the UK health systems, but the fact is here in Wales things are considerably worse.
But I hasten to add and must stress that these chronic problems are not down to our health and social care staff, they are wonderful and work tirelessly day and night providing excellent care and support.
Part of the problem, I’m afraid, is that for too long Welsh Labour Ministers have failed to get a grip on this growing crisis. They need to clearly articulate to us all what they are doing about things and what we can expect and when.
Therefore, I decided to lead a debate last week that focused on what could help to build our NHS back more resilient. I took advice from professionals in the health and social care system, including clinicians.
And what is clear is that the overarching aim has to start with three ‘Rights’–providing excellent healthcare to the right patient, at the right place, at the right time.
Granted, to solve the health and social care crisis won’t be easy to achieve, but it is entirely possible.
In my short debate I outlined a 5-point plan which focused on some fundamental points.
1. Equipping the NHS with reliable and efficient technology: Updated NHS technology will ensure primary and secondary care (GPs and hospital doctors) can communicate for patients to find out where they are on waiting lists sooner.
2. Ensure a 24/7 local authority-led social care discharge service: Localised 24/7 discharge schemes would speed up assessments and support patients to go home sooner with the right package of care.
3. Recruiting and retention of staff: Bolder training targets are needed to recruit and retain staff, including increasing the numbers of GP training numbers beyond the current 160 new trainees per year, and promoting careers within the social care sector. There must be parity between the health and social care workforces.
4. Creating a more modern and transparent NHS: Wales desperately needs the NHS and Welsh Government to show more ambition, drive and vision, while being more open and transparent in how it collaborates with patient groups and stakeholders; the people of Wales must be given the opportunity to take a more active role in the way their public services are developed and delivered; the public must be able to access clear expectations of improvement over the foreseeable future; and encourage greater innovation and links with universities and researchers.
5. More focus on prevention: Improve access to prevention programmes based in primary and community care, especially for those living in poverty, and invest in innovation, including screening programmes, vaccines and wearable technology.
The people of Wales, deserve nothing less than first-class care when they need to access our NHS. Our health service needs action and needs it now.