Posted: Thu 16th May 2024

A view from Sam Rowlands – Welsh Conservative North Wales Member of the Senedd for people living in or visiting the Wrexham area has invited the four North Wales Members of the Senedd to write a monthly column with updates on their work. You can find their updates – along with contributions from the Wrexham and Clwyd South MPs and MSs – here.

In this month’s column, Welsh Conservative Member of the Senedd Sam Rowlands writes:

On Bank Holiday weekend, Betsi Cadwaladr Health Board issued a black alert due to “extreme pressure” at emergency departments in North Wales.

This is extremely serious and means that waits are even longer and more people are going without treatment.

It’s the sign of a Health Board under immense strain and pressure. Issuing a black alert frankly means that hospitals are unable to cope.

That feeling is a regular occurrence for us in North Wales. Despite the hard work of doctors, nurses and many others, the system is regularly overwhelmed due to systemic problems.

Recently, a member of the public, who has terminal cancer, wrote to me with his experiences at a hospital in North Wales.

He attended A&E with a letter from his GP to secure a bed on a ward, but the hospital refused this and put him in the A&E waiting room, where he waited for 11 hours. By midnight, he was told to go home. The next day he had a very similar experience, waiting more than 12 hours.

That’s no way for someone to be treated, particularly someone with terminal cancer – but we keep seeing stories like this across the region.

In February, a patient almost had the wrong toe removed during surgery, and a new mother was mistakenly fitted with a contraceptive coil after a caesarean section.

On another occasion, a woman died after medical notes which referred her for more testing were lost, with the coroner then outlining concerns that no lessons appear to have been learned by staff despite this tragedy.

An entire article could be filled with stories like these. Behind each one is an individual who has been maltreated, and has had their life made worse or even brought to an end.

I was pleased that Carol Shillabeer, Chief Executive of the Health Board, admitted that “significant improvements are required to ensure that people across North Wales consistently receive the safe and high quality care that they should expect.”

There’s no use anyone burying their head in the sand over this.

Health in Wales is the responsibility of the Labour-run Welsh Government in Cardiff Bay, and has been since 1999. As with most public services, it seems that North Wales gets a particularly raw deal compared with other parts of Wales – and it’s not like waiting lists are low in West Wales or the Valleys!

Betsi going in and out of special measures is a clear example of us getting a raw deal, and I am worried that the Health Minister in Cardiff doesn’t have a plan to get us out of this mess.

As it stands, the Welsh Government underspends on health. They get £1.20 from the UK Government for every £1 spent on public services in England, yet Cardiff Labour don’t spend that full £1.20 on health.

I know that readers will be shocked by that. Spending the full amount of money would make a big difference for us in North Wales.

As the new Shadow Minister for Health in the Senedd, fighting for that money is a big part of my job – but as much as money will help, Wales needs a proper plan aimed at improving all aspects of the NHS. That ranges from recruitment and retention of staff to new innovations in healthcare technology – can you believe that parts of the NHS in Wales still use fax machines!?

When you see other healthcare systems implementing Artificial Intelligence solutions to combat longstanding health issues, it’s no wonder that the Welsh NHS is in such a mess when we’re relying on fax machines!

Labour’s chronic underfunding also means that Betsi Cadwaladr Health Board can’t fulfil everything it needs to – for example, more than £1m a month is spent sending mental health patients out of the area for treatment this year.

That means, in the first three months of this year, more than £3.5m was spent on sending mental health patients out of our area; when you don’t have the robust plans in place to begin with, you have to spend even more money cleaning up the mess further down the line. In this case, not having appropriate mental health care in North Wales to begin with means those vulnerable people are being sent elsewhere at considerable expense and at the risk of further pressure on their mental health.

In health, as in everything else, prevention is better than cure.

As ever, if you have any queries or issues you’d like to raise with me, then you can get in touch with me by emailing [email protected]

Spotted something? Got a story? Email [email protected]

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