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Minister blames bad weather for ambulance delays

The Health Minister, Mark Drakeford, has told AMs that "sustained extreme weather conditions" explain why only 52.8% of ambulances responding to category A emergencies last month got to the patient within the eight minute target. He was answering an urgent question in the Senedd.

It ill-behoves us, sitting here in the comfort of the National Assembly, to take no account of the conditions which people delivering those services faced during February.

– Health Minister Mark Drakeford AM

Kirsty Williams, for the Liberal Democrats, said that the Welsh Government had not been able to deliver the ambulance service that Wales needs and deserves. The Conservatives and Plaid Cymru both argued that ambulance times should not have got worse since January, when there was also bad weather.

The Minister said there had been a cumulative effect and he had come close to suspending response time targets altogether on police advice. Earlier today he announced new targets, for how soon a patient receives effective treatment, which he said were more relevant than ambulance response times.

The eight minute target does nothing to help outcomes for the patients... [but] we have moved out of February and into March the performance has improved.

– Health Minister Mark Drakeford AM

Crucial changes need to be made to the NHS this year

The Welsh NHS Confederation argue that time is running out to make crucial changes to the NHS and that tough decisions need to be made to this year.

The Director of the Welsh NHS Confederation, Helen Birtwhistle, says there are problems with providing services for patients under a model of hospital care that was 'devised more than 50 years ago'.

The news comes as health bosses are meeting today to discuss the future of the service. The Welsh Government says reconfiguration is underway to ensure services aren't spread too thinly.


'Time is running out' to make changes to NHS in Wales

The future of the NHS in Wales is under the microscope today. Credit: NHS Wales

The body which represents NHS organisations in Wales is warning that time is running out to make crucial changes to it. The warning comes as leaders meet today.

The director of the welsh NHS confederation argues that "tough decisions need to be taken this year or the NHS as we known it will not survive".

The Welsh Government said a programme of 'service reconfiguration' is underway to ensure services aren't spread too thinly.

Charity calls for 'robust inquiry' into patient safety

by Rob Osborne
The Welsh NHS is under scrutiny following a series of concerns Credit: Chris Radburn/PA Wire

A leading patient safety charity says there is an "urgent need" to look at patient safety across Wales after new concerns have emerged in recent weeks.

Action against Medical Accidents (AvMA) says the news about patients dying with C.difficile at hospitals in North Wales, along with questions over the record of a liver specialist at Cardiff and Vale health board, demonstrate a need for a "robust investigation" into patient safety.

Last year the Health Minister Mark Drakeford announced a review into standards at Abertawe Bro Morgannwg University Health Board - looking in particular at the Princess of Wales and Neath Port Talbot hospitals.

He has resisted calls for a full inquiry into the Welsh NHS - similar to the one by Sir Bruce Keogh conducted in England.

Peter Walsh, from the charity, says the NHS scheme for examining complaints about the health service - called 'Putting Things Right' - is "not doing what it says on the tin."

The Welsh Government has said it will look at how concerns are handled in the Welsh health service.

A public meeting will be held later this month in Bridgend for families who say they've had poor care in the health service.

Drakeford: travel to get 'best possible treatment'

In the future it's likely more of us will have to travel further to get specialist treatment on the Welsh NHS.

The story of reconfiguration, as it's known, has dominated the news this year and that's likely to continue into the new year.

Our Health reporter Rob Osborne has been speaking to the Health Minister Mark Drakeford AM about it.

"The case for change is recognised," he said.

"The way of the future of medicine in Wales and everywhere else is that if you want to get the best possible treatment you will need to go to where there is a greater concentration of people who are able to get the experience they need in providing that specialist service.

"We can't go on in Wales trying to do too many things in too many places."

You can see more of Rob Osborne's interview with the Health Minister in Newsweek Wales at 12.35pm on Sunday.

Health Minister rejects Clwyd call for hospitals inquiry

The Welsh Health Minister, Mark Drakeford, says he will 'reflect' on the recommendations in Ann Clwyd's report on the complaints system in the English NHS. He says her report will make 'a valuable contribution' to Welsh Government plans.

But he's rejected her call for a Keogh-style inquiry into Welsh hospitals with higher-than-average mortality rates, saying 'an inquiry is not the best way forward.'

Ann Clwyd’s Review relates to the complaints system in NHS England hospitals, but it does have relevance to NHS Wales. We will reflect on the recommendations, and I am sure that it will make a valuable contribution to our thinking. I have met with Ann Clwyd to discuss healthcare in Wales and hear her concerns. I am grateful to Ann for keeping in touch during her inquiry.

Earlier this year we published 'Delivering Safe Care, Compassionate Care' which sets out the Welsh Government's response to the Francis inquiry. Whilst the vast majority of patients continue to receive good care, we must ensure that the processes we have in place to raise concerns are effective, accessible and something that everybody can understand – and which do lead to improvements.

It is now two years since we introduced ‘Putting Things Right’ which includes complaints handling, for the NHS in Wales. It is timely to take a look at how well they are working. I will make a statement to Assembly Members on how we propose to do this.

In terms of calls for a Keogh-style inquiry into the NHS in Wales, it is timely to look at how things are working. The best way to do that is currently under consideration. An inquiry is not the best way forward.

– Mark Drakeford AM, Health Minister


Health Minister to set out NHS preparations for winter

Welsh Health Minister Mark Drakeford is due to appear before the National Assembly's Health and Social Care Committee today, to outline what actions the NHS here has taken to prepare for winter emergencies.

There were "unprecedented pressures" on NHS Wales last winter, the health service's chief executive said in his annual report.

The Welsh Government has also referred to last winter's "severe weather" having an impact on waiting times.

Mark Drakeford will be asked to assure AMs that the NHS will be prepared for another difficult winter.

The committee's evidence paper refers to a number of challenges which could increase the pressure on A&E departments, including an ageing population.

In April, the previous Health Minister, Lesley Griffiths, announced a range of actions aimed at reducing demands placed on emergency care, such as improving ambulance handover times.

£10 million for extra nurses to improve hospital care

The Welsh Government says it will spend an extra £10 million recruiting more nurses as part of its response to the Francis report on patient neglect. The announcement was made in the Senedd this evening.

AMs were debating the action ministers need to take to make sure that there is no repetition in Wales of the events that led to the deaths of patients in mid-Staffordshire. The funding will be shared between the seven Welsh health boards.

  • Abertawe Bro Morgannwg £1.8 million
  • Aneurin Bevan £1.9 million
  • Betsi Cadwaladr £2.2 million
  • Cardiff and Vale £1.4 million
  • Cwm Taf £1.1 million
  • Hywel Dda £1.3 million
  • Powys £0.4 million
  • TOTAL £10 million

Safe and compassionate care clearly can’t be produced simply by systems and measurements. It depends, fundamentally, on people. Staff are the greatest resource of the NHS and the staffing we need for the future has to match changing patterns of need. Our hospital in-patient population now consists predominantly of older people, often with a complex mixture of social and clinical conditions. The Chief Nursing Officer is leading work to introduce a new way of determining the number of nurses needed on any ward, to meet those needs.

Work so far has concentrated on acute medical and surgical wards. It shows that we need more nurses and healthcare support workers, in order to reach the staffing levels we will need in future.I recognise that meeting these new requirements of the post-Francis world comes at a cost. I am therefore very pleased to announce today that an additional £10 million will be provided in the current financial year, to allow Health Boards to accelerate their plans to secure acute medical and surgical ward nurses.

– Health Minister Mark Drakeford AM

The minister committed himself to providing the £10 million in future years as well. It is expected to pay for about 290 extra nurses. It will be additional money for the health boards but will have to be found from within the overall health budget, which will be re-examined.

I welcome this review, which is a step forward in recognising the devastating impact that Labour’s record-breaking NHS cuts are having on frontline NHS services. This review will give the Welsh Government an evidence-based assessment of the needs of the Welsh NHS ahead of the next Budget round, in which Labour has already pencilled in further cuts to the health budget. While we welcome £10million for specialist nurses, it is disappointing that this is not new money and simply being transferred from another part of the health budget.

– Leader of the Opposition Andrew RT Davies AM

Welsh Ambulance Service set to 'transform'

Ambulance service provision in Wales is set to 'transform' following a recent review, the Welsh Government has announced.

Health academic Professor Siobhan McClelland had recommended three options for change in her Strategic Review of Welsh Ambulance Services report, which found 'deep-rooted problems' in the service.

After careful consideration and following a full appraisal, I have concluded a National Delivery Model offers the best available way forward, from legal, infrastructural and workforce perspectives.

This will see a commissioner/provider relationship between local health boards and the ambulance service.

I will establish a new National Delivery arm responsible for the commissioning of ambulance services. The seven chief executives of the Local Health Boards will be members of that new organisation, and will be required to work collaboratively to commission ambulance services.

Local Health Boards will now be unambiguously responsible for securing the provision of ambulance services in Wales. They will commission ambulance services based on local need, ensuring people across all communities in Wales receive a bespoke service.

– Mark Drakeford AM, Minister for Health and Social Services

The Health Minister has also announced proposals to rename the ambulance service the Welsh Emergency Medical Service.

Compassionate care is the responsibility of all says minister

Health minister Mark Drakeford will ask AMs later today to back the Welsh Government's response to the Francis report.

‘Delivering Safe Care, Compassionate Care’ follows the report by the Francis Inquiry, which made a number of recommendations for the NHS in England, after failures in standards of care at the Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust.

Day in, day out, the experience of the vast majority of people coming into contact with the NHS in Wales is of care which is dignified and respectful. I want to see a culture of conversation in the health service, where people feel able to voice concerns about care and know they are being heard. Of course, when things don’t happen as they should, we must listen, learn and take action.

Safe, compassionate care is the responsibility of everyone in the health service, from cleaner to Chief Executive. We know that NHS staff in Wales are highly motivated and committed, and we must ensure we have a health service which allows them to get on with their job of providing excellent care.The Francis Inquiry, although undertaken in response to failures outside Wales, offers us the opportunity to look at our health service with a critical eye and ensure we are in the best shape to deliver the safe, compassionate care patients deserve.

– Health Minister Mark Drakeford AM
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