A Week in the Assembly (9/3/15)


First Minister’s Questions

Following her announcement for implementing a national board to fund new drugs and treatment for welsh NHS patients, Leanne Wood questioned the minister whether he agreed that inconsistencies between health boards was acceptable. Mr. Jones stated that there needs to be greater consistency in decisions regarding the Individual Patient Funding Requests, which can currently change between health boards, with the minister admitting that “she does have a good point though.”  Wood was disappointed that the minister was unable to reassure patients that this ‘postcode lottery’ will not be abolished.

The First Minister replied to Kirsty Williams’ by saying that the government commissions reviews in order to make things better, as is what happened with the commission on teacher training.  The Lib Dems leader said we need “the very best teachers, delivering the very best curriculum”, with Mr. Jones agreeing, saying that changes will be implemented side-by-side.

Carwyn Jones also admitted that he is not opposed to the principle of setting in law a statutory footing to guarantee patients and families are informed of medical mistakes in the NHS, agreeing with the leader of the opposition.  Jones also brought knowledge of his law background to the assembly saying health boards need to resist some claims, and resist settling when the case isn’t strong enough.

Amongst other topics discussed was the fact the Welsh Government spends £428 500 to 3rd party organisations to combat loneliness in Wales, and commended the work of volunteers. Also, despite struggles on rural GP practices, new changes will take up to seven years to be implemented, and urged surgeries to discuss any changes with their local health board.

Members being bullied

The Violence (Wales) Bill was last week passed, that will place duties on Welsh Ministers, County and Borough Councils and Local Health Boards to prepare and publish strategies aimed at ending domestic abuse, gender-based violence and sexual violence.  Jocelyn Davies emphasized the importance of education in a matter like this, and sexism is seen everywhere in our society, even in the assembly, but education is a vital part to reduce this, and this bill will be beneficial.

Several members brought concerns that they were bullied by third sector organizations that were lobbying for this bill, with Antoinette Sandbach calling the lobbying process appalling and deeply regretful, adding the matter made her very upset, remembering these organisations are funded by the government.  Minister Leighton Andrews responded to these claims saying that the organisations were passionate about this bill, and their lobbying was passionate, saying he experienced their lobbying and wouldn’t see it as bullying.  Mr. Andrews however seemed to ignore what effect their lobbying had on members, and refusing to look at the matter further, when it was clear Sandbach was upset over the issue.

NHS Commission Scrapped

A planned cross-party commission on the NHS due to start next month have been scrapped, with Kirst Williams saying “This is disappointing as it was a real chance to take some forward steps in improving our NHS.”  The Conservatives have called for a full public enquiry, Plaid Cymru said that this was not the right time for such a commission, and the Welsh Government blaming the Liberal Democrats for the proposal’s collapse.  It seems once again, party politics from all sides have come in the way in what could have been a turning point in the future of the NHS.