Conservative Conference Speech By Angela Burns AM

Conference Speech 06/03/2020


May I start by thanking Joe, Emma and my colleagues, Janet and James for their contributions and insights during today’s session?

It has been helpful to hear from the front-line views on the current position of the NHS and Social care Services in Wales as well as thoughts on how the Health sector can move forward and improve in these post Brexit times.

I would like to thank James for his opening speech, and can I say on behalf of everyone in the hall how great it is to see you back in Parliament standing up for the people of the Vale of Clwyd.

There were some outstanding results across the country last December and I was delighted to see Sarah, Virginia and Fay elected as our first Welsh Conservative female MPs complimenting the depth and breadth of backgrounds and experiences that our new Welsh MPs bring to our team in Westminster.

It is often said that the next election is the most important in a generation, but I truly believe that the election to the Welsh Parliament in May 2021 has the opportunity to UNLEASH WALES’ POTENTIAL.

By the time they are held the people of Wales will have suffered 22 years LABOUR rule.  

  • 22 years of being taken for granted by LABOUR
  • 22 years of jobs for the sycophants that subscribe to the same world view as LABOUR
  • 22 years of going virtually unchallenged by most stakeholders and public bodies, too afraid to hold a different view as their funding may be hit or their access restricted.

Nowhere has this 22 year of LABOUR rule been more disastrous than in the Health and Social Care Sectors.




For years my colleagues and I in the National Assembly have challenged Labour’s mismanagement of Bestsi Cadwaladr Health Board. Our views as a party are perfectly clear on the policies and management of Betsi, however I do want to pay tribute to those front line staff who feel the full brunt of the lack of strategic direction and leadership provided by the Board and the Welsh Labour Government.

Unfortunately, it is not just here in North Wales where we have seen LABOUR fail the NHS. We have witnessed the appalling situation in Cwm Taf where babies’ lives were lost due to negligence and poor leadership from a Health Board who prioritised Money over all else.

Further west in Hywel Dda, another board under LABOUR intervention, the gradual removal of services continues at Withybush Hospital with the faint promise of a new build somewhere yet not identified.

With all these Health Boards one of the main consequences of this drip, drip approach is the increased challenge in recruiting and retaining staff to hospitals and GPs surgeries a situation that is all too apparent in my constituency where the annual winter pressures saw several weekends of elective surgery cancelled and wards closed.

The truth LABOUR closes their eyes too is that the NHS is under pressure all year round and that is why accountability is at the heart of my NHS Improvement plan.

The NHS in Wales is crying out for new leadership. For too many years LABOUR have doggedly stuck to the same ideological mantra and filled the senior leadership of the Health Boards with people who will toe the line or who have served and failed or served and been mediocre elsewhere. LABOUR’S CRONYISM MUST END.

After everything that is happening in Wales it is no wonder that we are more trusted on the NHS than LABOUR.

Conference: I could spend the rest of my speech highlighting the shortcomings of the way that our NHS is led.



I could outline how ambulance targets are regularly missed, how patients have been left lying on the floor across the road from a Hospital for 6 hours because of our risk adverse, non-common-sense approach to putting patients first.

I could bang on about how the target for A&E waiting times has not been hit since 2009, how barriers have been placed in the way of improvements being made to NHS dental contracts and how access to certain drugs and medications can depend on which health board that you live in.

I could go on to highlight how most of the Health Boards in Wales have been operating under Government intervention, with Betsi here in North Wales soon to ‘celebrate’ its fifth anniversary.


Things can be different and will be different as a WELSH CONSERVATIVE GOVERNMENT will deliver a first-class health service for the Welsh public

Our strong experienced Welsh Conservative Health Team are testing and costing our policies for the Welsh Parliament manifesto next year. We are engaged with charities, interest groups and real people.

James has already mentioned the Big Health Survey, a survey designed to find out what people really feel and want. These are accessing Health Care across Wales every day of the year.  

Janet has done an excellent job of shadowing the Social Care part of the portfolio. She isn’t afraid to hold the Government to account and is holding an ongoing series of Social Care Policy Forums and gathering first-hand evidence from those who are most closely involved in delivering social care to our elderly and the less able.

There are occasions where we can work cross party. My work as chair of several Cross-Party Groups demonstrates that where agreement can be reached and common ground established, change can be achieved.

The last few weeks have demonstrated the importance of a cross party approach when it comes to the way the Welsh Government are handling the Coronavirus. The Health Minister and officials meet with me and others regularly and we all have a responsibility to ensure that in the face of a true national crisis, we display a unified and nonpartisan approach and put public safety first.

We have a responsibility to hold the Government to account and present an alternative vision, but we have a duty to support them where we feel that the actions, they are taking are correct and in the public interest.

With the passing of the Welsh Government’s budget earlier this week the Health and Social Care portfolio will receive £8.71 billion during the next financial year the equivalent of £167,500,000 (one hundred and sixty-seven million, five hundred thousand) per week.

The age-old refrain from the Labour party is that there is not enough money to provide all the services that are required. What they forget is that for the first ten years of devolution the Government controlling the purse strings was of the same political colour in Westminster, RED!

I accept that we could always do with more money but above all we must be fair and prudent and ensure that the current £8.7 billion pound is spent effectively.

During the General Election campaign last year, it was announced that by 2023 funding available for the Welsh NHS will have increased by £1.9 billion a year. With this extra resource available we need to be bold when drawing up our manifesto and focus on key aspects such as treating mental health with the same urgency and commitment as physical health, social care provision and staff wellbeing and training.


Nursing Apprenticeships

We are aware of nursing shortages in Wales, and we will continue to champion the vital work nurses carry out at the frontline of our precious NHS.  The Royal College of Nursing estimates that, every week, our dedicated nurses in Wales give the NHS extra hours to the value of 976 full time nurses.  That’s every week.


Here, in North Wales, there’s a huge vacancy rate of 560 nurses.  We cannot go on relying on the good will of this wonderful, caring workforce any longer – so that’s why I am announcing our Nursing Apprenticeships Route today.




Unleashing the potential of the people of Wales by supporting the NHS workforce and giving the opportunity of a valued career to everyone is a key priority for Welsh Conservatives.  In fact, it is so essential that the very first point of our 10-point NHS plan is to “recruit more doctors and nurses”. 

So how do we do this when barriers such as a lack of opportunity, confidence, qualifications – or even life events - have stopped potential nurses from pursuing a career which would be right for them?

We will look to make nursing, nursing associate and health assistant apprenticeship degrees to be available across Wales.  This would require both universities and colleges to offer the programme, and it should be available from the time a candidate has finished their GCSEs. 

Nursing apprenticeships would be a key strand of career options within the NHS.  But we recognise that they aren’t a standalone solution and traditional routes will remain, such as university degrees, post-graduate diplomas, international recruitment and return to practice schemes.

But, at the very least, giving the option of apprenticeships will attract more people from a wider pool and we believe “earn as you learn” apprenticeship degrees will help more people get their foot in the door – at any age and from any background

We believe this would mean more nurses filtering into the Welsh NHS and, as part of our “Recruit, Re-skill, Retain” approach to the NHS workforce, would reduce our costly reliance on agency nurses. 

This model of apprenticeship will also be applied to other aspects of the health and social care system as part of a wider review of the workforce. 


Mental Health and Wellbeing

Our second commitment is to fund and improve mental health and wellbeing services. 


For too long mental health has been regarded as a “Cinderella service” and has never received an equal focus by the Welsh Labour Government as they give physical health. 

Now is the time to take a universal approach to health care – and to have Equal Access for All.  Those who suffer with mental health conditions are valued members of our society and the Welsh Conservatives will help them the Unleash their potential and ensure they are supported and treated with respect.

A grim fact is that in Wales, between 300 and 350 people take their own lives every year.  Worse still, suicide is a major cause of death for people between the ages of 15 and 44 – a whole generation of young adults in the prime of their lives, who are lost to this scourge – and about three quarters of people who take their own lives are men. 

Furthermore, what should be a truly happy occasion for mothers – the birth of their child – does not ring true for everyone.  Between 1 in 10 and 1 in 15 new mothers experience post-natal depression, and depression and anxiety also affect 15-20% of women in the first year after childbirth. 

However, in Wales, we have no specialist care to support mothers, children and their families - so mothers when they are at their most vulnerable are taken away from their vital support networks or simply not given the right care. 

Here in North Wales we are still dealing with the fall out of the Tawel Fan Mental Health ward, where patients are still seeking answers as to how the Health Board was able to preside over such a litany of abuse and failure. Cases like this will continue to arise unless we show how seriously we are in providing the right treatment and facilities for those patients who most need it.

There is far more focus on this issue now, but Wales is still unable to provide adequate secure mental health facilities within its borders to deal with the worse cases. Welsh residents are being sent to England for treatment. There are very few units able to deal with complex cases or autism or people with Eating Disorders. All must seek help elsewhere. This must stop.

There are many clear and highly defined mental health problems such as Bipolar disorder which require rapid and focussed treatments. However, there are also many mental health conditions such as depression or PTSD which occur in tandem with an immediate physical trauma, or because of declining health, long waiting times or poor access to treatments.

Over the next few months, we will delivering a series of commitments to more effectively fund and deliver mental health services and address some of the issues that have been highlighted.

Mental Health will no longer be a Cinderella Service but rather the Belle of the Ball.

Finally, I would like to turn to social care because we must Unleash the potential of those who work so hard in the Social Care Sector.


Social Care

Being older is to be celebrated. Being older is to continue to live life to the full.  I’m getting older, with each passing day and I don’t see an abyss before me, I see fun and family and friends and interests, excitement, challenges, hope and opportunity. I also recognise that I have a wonky leg and badly behaved blood and to live the older age that I want

the older age that you want

the older age that we all wish for.

Then we may well need some form of social care support.

And too often this support for older people is treated as a must do not an essential right to have.  But it is their due. Old and Young. We are truly interwoven, and the Welsh Conservatives will Unleash the Potential of the Welsh citizen from cradle to grave.

Labour say they are focusing on the individual – but that is just not happening.  It’s been six years since this was promised through the Social Care and Wellbeing Act and all I say is talk to Carers and the cared for. It is an unhappy and disappointed Landscape where the mantra is One Size fits All. 

We don’t believe in One Size fits All and The Welsh Conservatives will ensure that your care package is right for you.  Whether you simply need help around the home or 24-hour nursing care.  Whatever you need. Under the Welsh Conservatives there will be a tailored support package for everyone who needs it, when they need it.

No more begging for help.

Friends;  we have an army of carers here in Wales, who have not been recognised for the valuable work they do and it’s time to ensure our social care workforce receives the support they need to treat and care for us. 

That’s why the Welsh Conservatives will Unleash their Potential – through career pathways reflecting the Nursing Apprenticeships and which will lead to proper pay scales that reflect the vital work they do.

Conference our Society and our NHS would fall apart with the thousands of unpaid and paid Carers we have in Wales.

I salute them and I promise. We will Unleash your Potential. Whether you are at home looking after a loved one, working in a residential home or calling at someone’s home.

We will support you properly.

We will train you well.

We will reward you fairly.

Your role is vital.

You above all else give Choice to us.

Thank you.

The Welsh Conservatives will not forget.


And let me make another promise.

Unlike Labour the Welsh Conservatives will not tax you again to look after you in your old age. You will not be penalised for being an Older Citizen Not by Us. Not by the Welsh Conservatives.






Conference: We must unleash the potential of Wales by freeing the Country from the inertia and centralising power grabbing control of the left.

A left that lionises Jeremy Corbyn

A left that shuts down thought, scrutiny and debate.

A Left that has allowed our NHS.

Our Social Care

Our Country

to fall behind the other home nations and most of Europe.

We need every single person who voted for the Conservatives in the general Election to go out and Vote for the Welsh Conservatives on the 6th May 2021

If YOU do that we can win, and we can Unleash the potential of Wales.

Next year Wales will have been under the yoke of Labour for 22 years.

My children have never known anything different.

Their friends have never known anything different.

Show them there is a different way.


Allow our kids and our grandchildren to Unleash their Potential.


You can make that difference. Go and Vote.