Welsh NHS set for Assembly election battle

Recent figures showed that 52.9 per cent of emergency responses to urgent 999 calls arrived within the goal of 8 minutes in Wales in March. This has been the best since December when only 42.4% of ambulances arrived within eight minutes.

In December it was revealed that one in nine calls for emergency services took over 20 minutes to arrive, which could be life threatening for an emergency patient. After the revelations the Welsh Conservatives criticised the way that Labour were handling the Welsh NHS, and this became a recurring theme for the months to follow.

The Conservative Welsh Shadow Minister for Health, Darren Millar stated, “Long delays for urgent assistance could potentially mean the difference between life and death. Despite assurances of improvement, response times simply aren’t getting significantly better.

Labour’s Welsh Health Minister should make an urgent statement and explain his government’s failure to communities across Wales.”

Last October, there were many other claims that the NHS in Wales was under-performing, and that it fell behind its England counterpart. As a result weeks before the election the Conservative party made claims about the way that Labour party dealt with health budgets in Wales.

The Conservatives claimed Wales was the only part of the country to have its health budget cut since 2010. Since then the Welsh NHS has seen claims of long waiting times and over nine months for referrals, as well as ambulances under-performing when it came to response times.

After a Daily Mail investigation revealed ‘patients dying while on waiting lists or being forced to move to England for life saving treatment’. However in response the BBC revealed that the accusations weren’t as straightforward as the Daily Mail had made them seem. During the General Election the investigation and accusations opened the door for Cameron to criticise the way that Labour led the Welsh NHS.

Alun Davies, the Blaenau Gwent Assembly Member claimed that these criticisms were a large part of why Labour lost the trust of the public for the General Election. He stated, “In Wales we also have comprehensively lost the argument on the National Health Service. Whatever we may think of the Tory attacks, it is entirely reasonable for a Conservative party to attack the record of Labour in Government and Labour must respond with a calm explanation of what we’re doing and what we wish to do.”

Hopefully, successes such as better response time will recover more trust in the NHS. However, we must see quick results if the Welsh Labour Party is able to gain more confidence for the National Assembly for Wales election next May. Despite the ambulance times improving, and A+E times improving in the last month, there are still problems in the Welsh NHS as is shown by the slipping cancer treatment waiting times. Non-urgent cancer treatment waiting is at its worst level for eight years, a target the Labour Welsh Government cannot ignore with an election in less than 12 months.