Monday, 19 January 2015

More patients but fewer beds, fewer nurses 15 years of Labour misrule hitting North Wales NHS

North Wales has nearly 400 fewer hospital beds and 350 fewer nurses than five years ago, according to new figures obtained by Plaid Cymru – the Party Of Wales.

The figures, released following a series of Freedom of Information requests, shows that in October 2009 the Betsi Cadwaladr Health Board had 2677 in-patient beds and employed 6276 nurses. By October 2014 the figures were 2284 in-patient beds, a 15% fall, and 5907 nurses, a 6% drop.

Wrexham Maelor Hospital saw a drop of 50 beds coupled with the closure of Flint and Llangollen community hospitals during that period (1).

At the same time, the number of inpatient cases in North Wales rose from 80,867 to 86,249 – a 6.7% rise. But in Wrexham Maelor the rise in the past year alone has been 15% - from 26331 to 30409.

Plaid Cymru’s North Wales AM Llyr Gruffydd said that such a reduction in beds and nursing staff was contributing to the difficulties the NHS was facing in terms of coping with a growing elderly population and ensuring there were beds for those brought in by ambulance to A&E.

Mr Gruffydd said: Closing wards such as the Acton ward in the Wrexham Maelor , coupled with the loss of many community hospitals, help explain why we are seeing long queues of ambulances outside our main hospitals and why people waiting so long for operations.

“The health board claims that nurse recruitment is the problem but nurses tell us they’ve applied to work Bank shifts and not heard back from the board. Instead, we’re seeing expensive agency nurses being recruited when we need longer-term planning in terms of workforce recruitment and retention.”

He was also critical of the health board’s claims that care was now focussed in the community: “These cuts in hospital services would be easier to stomach if we had seen an equivalent increase in funding for community care and GPs, but the truth is that we are facing a looming crisis in GP and primary-care services. I fear GP shortages will be the ‘health story’ of 2015, unless something drastic is done about it.

“Care at a hospital might be an out-dated concept for health bosses who want to see more care delivered at home but, until the structure and provisions are in place to ensure that home-care is functioning properly and can be delivered within budget, then there is a real danger that the system will fail if they reduce the number of beds and nurses.

“In recent years, Labour has underfunded the NHS in Wales and, as a result, we have seen a health service struggling to meet demand, which is rising with every new medical breakthrough and with a population that is living longer. The Cardiff Labour Government is presiding over an NHS that employs fewer nurses and has fewer facilities than it did five years ago – that’s a huge indictment of their misrule.”

Plaid Cymru leader, Leanne Wood, also stepped into the debate, arguing  that Plaid Cymru is the only party bringing practical solutions to the health debate in Wales.

Ms Wood accused the Westminster parties of failing the Welsh Health Service, criticising the Labour Welsh Government's "gross mismanagement" and the Tory-Lib Dem's destructive agenda of cuts and privatisation.

She repeated the Party of Wales' plan to recruit 1,000 extra doctors in Wales to ease the pressure on existing GPs and A&E departments, and its long-term aim to integrate health and social care.

Ms Wood said:

"The Welsh Health Service is one of our nation's proudest and most precious creations.

"However, there is no hiding from the fact that this crucial public service is facing a double hit from the Coalition Government's destructive agenda of cuts and privatisation, and the Labour Welsh Government's gross mismanagement.

"In Wales, only the Party of Wales is demanding financial fairness for our nation so that an over-stretched and under-resourced Health Service has the tools it needs to meet targets and deliver the best care possible.

"With our proposals to integrate health and social care, create a thousand extra doctors in Wales, and improve ambulance services in rural areas, we are the only party bringing practical solutions to the health debate in Wales.

"From ambulance response times to A&E waiting times to cancer treatment waiting times, the Labour party's record on managing our Health Service in Wales reads like a catalogue of shortcomings. The First Minister's denial surrounding these problems is failing staff and patients and it is time he woke up from his complacency.

"In the dying days of the Scottish referendum campaign, the Labour party also teamed up with the Conservative party to protect the Barnett Formula and therefore secure the continued under-funding of Welsh public services.

"To protect the Welsh Health Service, Wales must return as many Plaid Cymru MPs as possible in May to take on the privatisation agenda and to demand an end to the chronic under-funding of our nation so that we can secure the best outcomes for Wales."

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