Our Local NHS is in disarray
This month has seen a deluge of statistics highlighting the appalling performance of Labour in Wales in respect of our NHS. From cancer treatment to ambulance response times, the results have been spectacularly poor.
One figure that really stuck out was the amount of time that patients are having to spend in Accident & Emergency Departments. The Welsh Government has set a target that 95% of patients should not expect to spend more than 4 hours in an A&E Department. Yet month after month, this target is missed by a mile.
Our local Health Board, Cwm Taf, is the worst performing in Wales achieving a rate of just 80%.
For more than 20% of patients to spend more than 4 hours in A&E is nothing short of a disgrace. But then again, it’s what we’ve come to expect from the Welsh Labour Government who are badly mismanaging our NHS.
With all this in mind, it is staggering to find that despite having both the longest A&E and Ambulance waiting times in Wales, services in RCT are under threat.
As part of its South Wales Programme, the Welsh Government has started a consultation about the future of hospital services in our area and I would urge as many of you to engage in this as possible. Full details can be found at www.wales.nhs.uk/swp
Personally, given the appalling health statistics we experience in RCT, I have serious concerns about some of the proposals which could see the county’s only A&E provision at the Royal Glamorgan downgraded. In addition, the proposal to downgrade the neo-natal unit at the hospital, which is currently oversubscribed and having to send patients as far as England for treatment, is truly alarming.
I have challenged the Welsh Health Minister to demonstrate that the proposed changes will lead to better services for local people, but I am not convinced that moving services further away from RCT is the answer, and I urge you to make your views known.
Some of our local Labour politicians have had the barefaced cheek to campaign against the plans, claiming it is nothing to do with them. Yet Labour have been in Government in Wales for 13 years during which time we have seen the Welsh NHS fall further and further behind England. All of which must be extremely demoralising for NHS staff who are working incredibly hard to provide a quality service but are not being given the tools to do the job.
Liberal Democrat Assembly Member for South Wales Central, Eluned Parrott, has called for a significant improvement in the performance of A&E departments in the Cwm Taf Health Board area after statistics released today show that targets have once again been missed.
The Welsh Government’s target is for 95% of patients to spend less than four hours in A&E. Figures released have shown that this target was once again missed with only 78.2% and 80.6% per cent of patients spending less than 4 hours from arrival until admission, transfer or discharge in March and April 2013, respectively. This performance was the worst of any Health Board in Wales.
The Welsh Government’s 99% target for patients not to spend longer than 8 hours in A&E was also missed.
Eluned Parrott, Liberal Democrat Assembly Member for South Wales Central, commented:
“These figures are appalling and only further highlight how badly the Welsh Labour Government has mismanaged our NHS.
“While the Welsh Labour Government’s own A&E targets have never once been met, we would expect there to be at least signs of steady improvement. Sadly, that is far from the case. In fact, the figures for March are the worst they have been in more than a year. For 20% of patients to have to wait more than 4 hours in A&E is nothing short of a disgrace.
“After thirteen years of a Labour Government in the Assembly, we have seen Wales’ NHS fall further and further behind when compared to the rest of the UK. We have cancer targets that have not been met in five years, A&E targets that have never been met and ambulance response times that are by far the worst in the UK – that is Labour’s legacy in Wales. It is likely to be demoralising for NHS staff who are working incredibly hard to meet these targets but are not being given the tools to do the job.”
The Welsh Labour Government’s ambulance response times target has been missed across most parts of South Wales, with just 58% of Ambulances in Cardiff, 57% of Ambulances in The Vale of Glamorgan and just 48% in Rhondda Cynon Taf arriving within the eight minute target for life-threatening calls set by Labour Ministers in The Welsh Government. This marks the eleventh successive month where the all Wales ambulance target has been missed.
Liberal Democrat Assembly Member Eluned Parrott commented:
“The Welsh Labour Government has failed to meet its response times target for nearly a year now. This continued failure is hugely disappointing and just goes to show how dismally the Welsh Labour Government has handled our ambulance service. Sadly, these figures show Wales has by far the worst urgent response times in mainland UK.
“Following the Ambulance Review, the Health Minister has stated that the eight minute target is to remain – a decision I fully support. This target is vital for us to be able to track how our ambulance service is performing compared to the rest of the UK. At the moment, we are a long way behind the rest of the UK.
“I recognise there were a huge amount of calls made in April and there has certainly been improvement compared to the dire figures from the previous month, but we are still a long way off from receiving even an adequate service.
“Working for the Ambulance Service is an incredibly difficult job and we are all hugely thankful of the work they do, but at the moment the are forced to work in what is clearly a failing system provided by the Welsh Labour Government.”
On Labour’s hypocritical Royal Glamorgan campaign, Eluned Parrott, Welsh Liberal Democrat South Wales Central AM said:
“Labour has spectacularly failed our NHS over the past decade and this whole reorganisation process is down to their incompetence.
“The barefaced cheek of Labour’s campaign is utterly astounding. They are treating the people of Rhondda Cynon Taf with utter contempt by trying to hoodwink them into believing that they have nothing to do with the possible downgrading of the Royal Glamorgan. This is Labour at its all time low.
“Serious questions must now be asked about how Labour in the valleys knew that the Royal Glamorgan was under threat before South Wales Programme plans were launched on the 22nd of May. Internet records show that their website was set up on the 19th of May, only two days after the report had been agreed internally. This is clearly an orchestrated and premeditated attempt by the Labour party to shrug all responsibility for their failure to provide a decent standard of health provision.
“Labour in the Rhondda is petitioning its own Labour Government about reorganisation plans. What does that say about the competence of Welsh Labour? If a Labour cabinet minister and the Labour party in the valleys don’t trust the Labour government, why should we?”
Figures released today have shown that the proportion of patients treated by Cwm Taf Health Board with suspected cancer starting treatment within two months of diagnosis have hit their lowest rate since 2010.
The Welsh Labour Government has a target for 95% of urgent patients to be seen by a specialist within 62 days, but statistics published this morning show that only 86.4% of the cases treated by Cardiff & Vale had started definitive treatment within this time period.
Eluned Parrott, Welsh Liberal Democrat Assembly Member for South Wales Central said:
“It is disturbing to see how cancer waiting times are getting worse in Cwm Taf. 62 days is already an incredibly long time for a person to have to wait to be seen by a cancer specialist; to force people to wait even longer than that is completely unacceptable.
“The Welsh Labour Government’s waiting target hasn’t been met since the quarter ending June 2008, yet rather than seeing progress, the percentage of people waiting for treatment has grown once again.
“It’s a sad fact that the Welsh Labour Government is failing many cancer patients across Wales. Whether it is inadequate cancer care, poor ambulance response times or dire A&E waiting times, the Welsh Labour Government is not offering a health service that patients in Wales want and deserve.”
Responding to the South Wales Programme, announcing a consultation on the future of hospital services in our area, Eluned Parrott, Liberal Democrat Assembly Member for South Wales Central which includes the Royal Glamorgan Hospital and The University Hospital Wales said:
“I’m sure the proposals outlined today by the Welsh Labour Government will come as a shock and a worry to people across South Wales, particularly those who rely on services such as Accident and Emergency at the Royal Glamorgan Hospital in Llantrisant.
“Patients using emergency services at the University Hospital in Cardiff already experience long waiting times and crowded and uncomfortable conditions. We need to carefully assess whether a better-staffed and resourced University Hospital could deliver a better quality of care for patients than the existing two currently do, or whether the pressure of numbers would have a detrimental impact.
“The reforms planned are very radical, but some of our health services in South Wales have been failing to provide the kind of care that local people deserve for some time now. Clearly some action is needed, but the safety of patients should be the key factor in deciding how our services are organised. Now is not the time for knee-jerk reactions, but for careful considered discussion.
“I would urge residents to consider the details of these plans very carefully, and to engage fully with the consultation process as it moves forward so that their voices are heard.”
Last week, the latest in a long line of reviews into the ambulance service in Wales was published. Unbelievably, this is the ninth review of the ambulance service in six years and just confirms what many have believed for some time that the Welsh Labour Government are losing control of the health service in Wales.
Of course people in RCT have known about these shortcomings for years, as month after month our area is bottom of the league when it comes to ambulance response times.
The latest figures reveal that staggeringly, only 42.1% of Category A emergency calls are responded to within the target time of 8 minutes. That’s miles worse than other areas in Wales, and nowhere near the Government’s target of 65%. What I fail to understand is why we are so out of step with much of Wales – something is clearly wrong and needs addressing urgently.
A reliable and responsive ambulance service is vital for our area so that lives aren’t put at risk. I really hope that this latest review will lead to some real action.
Another area of the NHS where Wales lags behind England is in the ratio of the number of nurses to patients. As anyone who has been in hospital will know, nurses are a vital part of the NHS service. They are not just responsible for their patients’ well being, but dispense medicine, recognise early signs of complications, monitor their patient’s emotional condition and help their patients’ families understand the treatment a patient is receiving.
Nurses work extremely hard but are being asked to do more for their patients, with fewer resources. And nowhere is that more evident than in Wales.
Here, on average nurses have to deal with over 10 patients, whereas in England they each treat just 8. Obviously, dealing with more patients puts a limit on the investment of time and level of attention each patient receives.
Local reorganisation of the NHS in Wales in also concerning as it is likely to mean a reduction in the number of A&E units across Wales – and as we know, ambulances are having to queue up outside those units at present because they’re so overcrowded. Less A&E Units would only worsen ambulance delays putting more pressure on overworked staff. I therefore support the calls by Welsh Liberal Democrats in RCT for specialist A&E units to be maintained at the Royal Glamorgan and Prince Charles hospitals.
It was the Welsh Labour politician Aneurin Bevan who spearheaded the establishment of the NHS. His party in Wales now presides over an NHS that costs us more but delivers less than our neighbours in England. I wonder what he would have made of it.
Town Centres need our support
I make no apology for returning to the subject of our local Town Centres in this week’s column. They are the lifeblood of our towns and provide much more than a place to shop by many people in our community.
Local Welsh Liberal Democrats have recently carried out a survey of Town Centre businesses throughout RCT and the results come as no surprise with many businesses reporting that they are struggling to survive.
One of the biggest issues raised by traders was car parking charges, with 100% of those who responded saying their trade had declined as a result of increased charges.
Most worryingly was the fact that 94% of traders thought that RCT Council wasn’t doing enough to help them.
That figure doesn’t surprise me when we see the decision to approve plans to create a new Shopping Centre at Talbot Green being made without any apparent thought as to how it will affect other local traders.
Traders were also critical of the council’s so-called regeneration efforts with many believing that their views were not considered as part of the design process, nor was any help forthcoming during the inevitable disruption that took place during the work.
The survey is an excellent piece of work that summarises the many issues that our local traders are facing on a day to day basis as they struggle to survive.
You can see the full results of the survey here.
What is clear is that urgent action needs to be taken to address this decline. Both RCT Council, and the Welsh Government need to start listening to the views of local traders and work with them to produce a strategy to ensure they once again thrive and prosper.
Along with my local Welsh Liberal Democrat Colleagues, I will be attending a meeting with RCT Town Centre Traders this Thursday (11th April) at the Gelliwastad Club, Gelliwastad Road, Pontypridd at 7pm. I would encourage every local trader to attend to discuss the issues they face and to see how together with their local communities they can make sure their voice is heard.
Local Shopping Centres are at the heart of every community, they bring people together, they provide essential services and they create jobs and investment. It is therefore vital that we do all that we can to ensure that they survive.
Local traders need our support
The recent decision by Rhondda Cynon Taf Council’s Development Control Committee to give the go ahead for a new town centre in Talbot Green will undoubtedly cause further issues for currently hard pressed traders in neighbouring centres such as Pontypridd.
At a time when these traders need our support, this decision does nothing to further their cause.
My Welsh Liberal Democrat colleague on RCT Council, Cllr Mike Powell, spoke and voted against the proposal.
He, like me, can see the potential disastrous consequences for local traders should this proposal go ahead. Even the consultants commissioned by the Council admit that the development could result in an almost 6% reduction in business for traders in Pontypridd. Whilst that figure might not seem that significant, for many traders that are already struggling to survive it could be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.
Local traders have had a raw deal from their local Council. Years of indecision and inaction have been followed by a crippling recession yet the Council appears reluctant to even meet with traders to discuss how they can support them in their time of need.
Out of town shopping centres have already spelt the death knell for many town centres throughout Wales. Our local independent traders just can’t compete when they are faced with car parking charges, higher business rates and restrictions on opening hours. They need a level playing field.
Both the Council and the Welsh Government should be doing more to help these traders and, as the Welsh Liberal Democrat Shadow Business Minister, this is something I will continue to pursue in the Assembly.
What Wales needs are strong and prosperous high streets and town centres, with a range of diverse independent shops alongside well-know brands. Local shopping centres used to be, and should be, the lifeblood of our communities. While many of us use out of town shops, it is the elderly and vulnerable, those without access to a car, who will suffer if we let our town centres die. Please support our town centres – shop there, eat there, meet there.
Eluned Parrott, Welsh Liberal Democrat Assembly Member for South Wales Central has challenged Welsh Ministers to issue guidance to Councils regarding the collection of bulky waste items including beds, tables and fridges following worries that fly tipping may increase following the controversial plans of Labour run Cardiff and RCT Council to charge residents for collections.
“I have been contacted by concerned residents from Cardiff and Rhondda Cynon Taff who are worried that the decision to begin charging householders for collecting items such as beds, tables and fridges will mean an increase in illegal fly-tipping. They naturally fear that bulky rubbish will simply be dumped in back lanes and in local parks to avoid paying these new charges.
“Fly tipping and littering blights many communities and while progress has been made on cleaning up some of our communities in Cardiff through alley-gating over recent years and other measures, I’m very concerned that the actions taken by these Labour Councils will reverse this trend.
“It is also likely that the cost of clearing up any additional fly-tipping will be far higher than any income generated by these charges, and for that reason I hope they will see them as the financial, as well as environmental, mistake they are.
“I have called for both Councils to abandon these charges and am also asking the Welsh Government Minister to monitor the levels of fly tipping to judge if this adds to the problems many residents already face.”