The performance of the NHS in Wales is the responsibility of the Government of the day; it is their role to set the strategic direction and to monitor the outcomes from those tasked with delivery.
It is also the responsibility of the Welsh Labour Government to manage the finances provided by the taxpayer yet financial mismanagement continues to define this Welsh Government’s health legacy. The Welsh Labour Government have cut the NHS budget over the past 5 years, the Nuffield Trust report confirms that they spend less per person on health than England or Scotland or Northern Ireland, adjusted to our ageing population, and the Welsh Government run a health programme that seems to be based on an entirely urban model with little recognition of the needs and challenges faced by more rural communities. It is noteworthy that the many closures or service degradations seldom affect Cardiff or Swansea!
Hospital closures and service provision cutbacks continue to further isolate Welsh communities, with the reconfiguration of services placing increasing strain on other hospitals. None more evident than the decimation of services at Withybush Hospital and the resulting pressures upon Glangwilli. Born out time and again by the numbers of my constituents who now have to go further east than Carmarthen for basic services.
The 2016 OECD report recognised the need to shift care away from hospital settings and towards primary and community care. In effect, the Welsh Government is adopting the opposite approach, and as such, is overburdening the centralised health system, on a select few hospitals.
Few would argue that primary and community healthcare is the way forward for many services however that very philosophy is being undermined by not having robust services being provided for by a local district general hospital.
Let me give you an example.
There is a chronic shortage of GPs in Pembrokeshire. One of the largest GP practices in Wales based in Pembroke Dock is struggling to recruit GPs. With some 25,000 patients they are under enormous pressure.
We can’t find GPs to staff Tenby. A town that hosts an additional 50,000 visitors during the summer season. The situation there is chronic and for the Labour Assembly Members in The National Assembly for Wales who have accused me of scaremongering over health services in Carmarthen West & South Pembrokeshire I say this.
Come with me, in the dark, in the rain, in the cold and wait with some of my elderly constituents who are queuing from 7.30 in the morning in order to get into the GP surgery at 8.30 in order to get an appointment because they are so desperate.
Queuing at 70, 80 and 90 years of age to see a doctor. In Wales. In 2016. This is a third world service.
And this chronic shortage of GPs is exacerbated by the situation at Withybush Hospital. Many of the junior doctor posts at Withybush are GP trainees. Given that the breadth of the posts available are constantly being eroded it is a given that the Hospital is diminishing in its capacity to provide training for all emergencies in those fields.
I understand from Undergraduate Tutors for both Cardiff and Swansea Medical Schools that in its current form Withybush is going to struggle to attract candidates for many of the posts there.
It’s a perfect storm, Withybush has no respiratory consultant, no cardiologist, no obstetrics, no paediatrics, no pain management.
As one GP very clearly put it. We need to know that behind us is a comprehensive service that we can refer patients too. The Hospital is our back up, looking behind you and seeing chaos makes my job unbelievably stressful and difficult and offers my patients nothing.
The Welsh Government’s current policies have failed, and there is a need for a root-and-branch review of how healthcare is delivered.
Welsh Conservatives will end uncertainty over service configuration in Wales. We will maintain existing emergency departments across Wales, as well as re-establishing paediatric and special care baby services at Withybush. In addition we will create a Community Hospital Development Fund to encourage the innovative use of community hospitals across Wales and restore Minor Injury Units. It’s absurd to have a situation such as Tenby where there is a modern community hospital with no Minor Injuries, unable to back up local GPs or provide services to constituents who are left to travel miles.
I will leave the last words to BMA Cymru who have said that: "(We) cannot cover up the collapsing community provision, lack of hospital beds, and staffing vacancies (which) have pushed our NHS to near collapse.