Video: Part of my contribution to the debate in the Assembly on the Parliamentary Review of Health and Social Care Interim Report

“May I first of all welcome the interim report, as it is very thorough and shows a great deal of research and consultation? It gives us a great deal of detail on the state and challenges facing the NHS and the care sector in Wales today, but we must also say that the findings aren’t ones that should surprise us too much. What we have is a picture of financial pressures, demographic pressures, mixed with poor workforce planning, underperformance and a lack of integration between health and social care. We see clearly the excellence that exists among the professional staff of the NHS and the care sector but also see the stress and pressures they face as they try and work to the greatest of their ability.
“Now, the evidence is already clear, therefore, although this is an interim report, that we cannot continue as we are. That also means that we should cease saying that the UK Government can continue with austerity policies whilst the Welsh Government continues to put pressures on local authority funding and social care and that that isn’t going to have a truly detrimental impact on the ability to provide health and care services as people would expect and would deserve.
“It’s clear from the report that health service funding needs to increase as needs increase among the population, but that we also need to invest more in social care, and we do know that the demands on the services are going to increase, although the scale of that increase will depend on how this Government responds to these various challenges—obesity, for example, and the need to encourage healthier lifestyles. There are other elements too: the quality of housing, the environment and, of course, cuts in the welfare state, when the weakest in our society are being squeezed by the cruellest policies. We know that homelessness is on the increase, that suicide is on the increase and that the use of health services is also on the increase. Therefore, the case for change is strong and a change in the way that Governments, both here and in London, look at and support the whole ecosystem surrounding health and care services and social support services.
“I could refer to some specific elements that are highlighted in this report—workforce planning, for example. Improved workforce planning is attainable if we see the Government taking the appropriate steps, such as introducing a centre for medical education in Bangor and encouraging more young people from Wales, from various backgrounds, including the more disadvantaged backgrounds, to study medicine. It does mean that those necessary steps have to be taken to increase the number of nurses that we train and to provide the support that those trainee nurses need to make this a profession that remains attractive to them.
“The report highlights the scope to use technology to provide alternative ways—better and, very often, cheaper ways—of treating patients, but that does mean having services and health and care institutions that are flexible and can respond to new developments. Some of those developments, which are emerging very quickly, will be truly revolutionary, and we in Wales cannot be left behind. So, there are significant challenges, but also significant opportunities.
“We have major challenges ahead of us, but real opportunities too, if Wales has the ambition and has the positivity to take advantage of those opportunities, rather than pretend our job is to manage a decline and moan about things that we can’t do anything about. It’s about Welsh Government, more specifically, showing that it is ready to step up to the plate. A core problem, the elephant in the room, is this: Labour in Government has always run the NHS since the people of Wales decided to devolve it nearly exactly 20 years ago. Wales cannot afford any longer to have a Government refusing to admit to the depths of some of the NHS’s and the care sector’s problems, because to do so would be to admit that they are responsible for those problems. The people of Wales need to see a real gear change in how Welsh Government runs health and social care in Wales and thinks about the delivery of health and social care in Wales. We have an interim report now highlighting some of the main challenges. We will soon have a completed review and, hopefully, a set of recommendations that can spur some real action.”