The Welsh Government is giving the NHS an extra £40 million to help it cope with winter pressures on the service. It's equivalent to the £700 million that the UK Government has given to NHS England. The announcement follows a period of sustained pressure over the Christmas and New Year period.
- GP out-of-hour services had their busiest festive period ever
- The Welsh Ambulance Service experienced unprecedented demand
- Hospital emergency departments reported an increase in patients with acute conditions, complex needs and dependency.
This additional investment in our health service will help our NHS deal with the significant pressures the service is facing – pressures that are being experienced across the UK as a result of increased demand from an influx of sick patients. Winter is a very busy period for our health, social care and social services – but our urgent and emergency care services, in particular, are seeing significant extra demand on their services.
I want to thank staff who are working tirelessly, often in difficult situations, to ensure that those people who have needed urgent and emergency care have received high-quality treatment and services and have been treated with care and compassion.
Deputy Health Minister Vaughan Gething has appealed to the public to consider whether they need to go to A&E when they are injured or unwell. He said people should ask themselves if another local health service can help or if they can look after themselves with advice from NHS Direct.
Dawn Bowden,the Head of Health at Unison Cymru Wales says the union would have preferred a UK wide settlement. She added that this was the first year that governments in different parts of the UK have taken different positions from each other.She said that this wasn't an ideal situation.
Welsh NHS staff are being given details of an improved pay offer that's led Unison to call off a half-day strike planned for Monday. It includes a £187 lump sum and a commitment by the Welsh Government to a 1% pay increase next April, in addition to any increments. The full offer is as follows:
- £187 (An increase on the £160 previously offered)
- A 1% rise from next April, on top of any annual increment
- All workers to receive at least the living wage of £7.85 an hour from January. The recent increase in the living wage means that this will now benefit 4,500 people, who will get a rise of between 2.5% and 5%
For the lowest paid of our members, it is in fact a very good deal
Unison is not actually recommending the deal to its members but is telling them that it's the best that can be achieved through negotiation. It's a two year deal, with pay strategy from 2016 onwards looked at by an NHS Wales Workforce Commission.
The union says it makes its pay claims for the UK as a whole but as health is devolved, different outcomes are always possible. This year a pay review recommended a 1% rise. This was accepted by the Scottish Government but the UK government said that it would not pay it in England to workers getting an annual increment.
The Welsh Government is not releasing details of the improved pay deal that it's offered NHS staff. The offer has led to Unison calling off a half-day strike planned for Monday. ITV News understands that the proposal the union will put to its members involves a slightly bigger payment than the £160 previously offered to all Welsh NHS staff apart from doctors, dentists and senior managers.
We are pleased that Unison has suspended the proposed industrial action whilst they consult their members. These discussions have shown the progress we can make together when good industrial relations are maintained. We await the result of the consultation which we hope will deliver a positive response. Our priority continues to be to maintain jobs at the frontline of NHS Wales against a backdrop of severe cuts to our budget.
A new pay offer to NHS workers from the Welsh Government means that the Unison union has called off a half-day strike planned for next Monday. The details of the improved offer have not been released but it means that industrial action, due to hit the English NHS later this month, may be avoided in Wales.
These new proposals are a significant improvement for our members and the result of weeks of tough negotiations with the Welsh Government. It is right that our NHS members now have a say and we will consult our members on the new proposals.
The dispute began when the UK Government rejected a pay review recommendation of a 1% increase and the Welsh government decided that it couldn't afford to pay the rise either. Instead it offered a one-off payment of £160 to all Welsh NHS staff apart from doctors, dentists and senior managers. The 2,400 lowest paid workers got more -up to £470, as a result of a commitment to at least pay the living wage.
Unison rejected that offer and called a strike ballot, 77% of the members who took part voted in favour. The union argued that the workforce could not be expected to plug the funding gap in the Welsh NHS.
Unions have traditionally been reluctant to see an end to pay being set on a UK-wide or England-and-Wales basis. But today's announcement from Unison, comes after the Fire Brigades Union in Wales called off a strike over its pensions dispute. The Welsh Government has offered to consult on a possible solution. Firefighters still walked out in England, where the union felt the government was not willing to compromise.
Welsh Liberal Democrat leader Kirsty Williams, who's often one of the fiercest critics of Welsh Labour's running of the health service, has condemned the UK Health Secretary's claims about the NHS in Wales.
Jeremy Hunt claimed that Welsh patients seeking treatment in England are causing "huge pressure" on hospitals there. He also said that the Welsh NHS is not prepared to pay for their treatment, a claim described as "nonsense" by the Welsh Government.
Kirsty Williams is AM for Brecon and Radnor, where many people have hospital treatment across the border. She has now written to Jeremy Hunt, stating that he is wrong on three counts.
Firstly, a good number of my constituents receive excellent care at The County Hospital in Hereford, and have done for many years because The County is their nearest District General Hospital. Whilst I know that there are problems in the Health service in Wales, I am alarmed that the current rhetoric might give my constituents the incorrect impression that they are not welcome or able to access treatment in Hereford, thereby putting them at risk of harm. Secondly, in terms of payment, you will well be aware that all treatment received by Powys patients in Hereford is then paid for by Powys Teaching Local Health Board. There should be no inference whatsoever that any of my constituents are receiving or expecting to receive treatment that is not then paid for. Finally, I take issue with you claiming that my constituents being treated in Hereford causes ‘great pressure’ on the system in England. Actually, having Welsh patients treated at The County Hospital helps maintain the services there by contributing significantly to the critical mass of patients needed to sustain a hospital of The County’s size.
Plaid Cymru's health spokesperson Elin Jones has responded to what she calls the "turf war" between the UK and Welsh Health ministers by claiming that Wales does consistently lag behind both England and Scotland on key health indicators.
We have a Welsh Government that consistently sets itself lower targets on waiting times, access to diagnostic tests, and the ambulance service. It then fails to achieve these lower targets. When comparisons can be made between the 3 countries, then in some areas the Welsh performance is shockingly poor. Take for example, access times for an MRI scan. Only 1% of patients wait more than 6 weeks for an MRI scan in England, only 2% in Scotland, whilst 40% of Welsh patients are waiting more than 6 weeks. Other Welsh diagnostic waiting times fare no better.
The Welsh Government’s answer to this is that demand for these tests has risen. It is true that demand has risen. But the rise has been even greater in the other countries. Over a three year period, the number waiting for an MRI scan in Wales rose by 33%, in England by 41% and in Scotland by 62%. This is therefore no excuse for Wales’ unacceptably long waiting times.
Elin Jones added that Plaid Cymru wants to train and recruit 1,000 extra doctors and also re-examine the entire NHS workforce to "fundamentally realign our health and social care sector to finally integrate services fully". She claimed that it would lead to a system that could cater effectively for the elderly and frail, while keeping the NHS a free and accessible public service.
The Welsh Conservatives are calling for locally elected health commissioners to take over from health boards, which they say are subject to political patronage as their appointed by ministers.
Communities across Wales have felt powerless to influence the decisions which have been made about health services in their areas. The Welsh NHS must become more accountable to those it serves and more responsive to the taxpayers who fund it.
Elected Health Commissioners will put the patient voice at the heart of decision making in the NHS, transferring decision making over health services from central government and into the hands of the people.
You vote them in, and you vote them out - that's our vision for patient voice in the Welsh NHS.
The Conservatives claim that the new system would lead to greater openness, as the commissioners would be publicly answerable when something went wrong in the running of the health service. Labour have dismissed the proposal as a waste of money.
This month the Welsh Labour Government announced nearly half a billion pounds of extra funding to secure our safe, modern NHS, free at the point of use. Now the Tories want to cream off some of that money, take it away from the front-line and put it into the pockets of Health Commissioners. What planet are they living on? Welsh Labour is on the side of patients and NHS staff, we want health money spent on health services, not another layer of bureaucracy.
Ann Clwyd says there is a fear of speaking out when things go wrong in the Welsh NHS.
Speaking to an Assembly Committee, the Cynon Valley MP who reviewed the complaints system for the English NHS, says staff, patients and their families should feel free to complain without the fear of consequences.
Labour MP Ann Clwyd is to give evidence the Assembly health committee today, as part of a wider review of patients' complaints about Welsh hospitals.
The Cynon Valley MP complained about the conditions her late husband endured before he died at the University Hospital of Wales in Cardiff.
She went on to carry out a review of hospitals in England for the UK Government.
Previous attempts by opposition parties to invite Ms Clwyd to give evidence at the Senedd were blocked by Labour AMs. They said it was 'constitutionally inappropriate' to invite a backbench MP from Westminster.
The decision was later overturned.