Conservative statement on ex-hospital chief “people will die” comments

For the second time this week, someone with top-level experience at NHS Wales has warned about the current state of the health service.

Dr Iain Robertson-Steel, former director of Withybush Hospital in Haverfordwest, said that without an urgent shake-up of the Welsh NHS, lives will be lost. Elaborating, he cited ambulance delays and the worst lack of resources he’d ever seen as indicators of decline.

He has also recounted how he has had to drive two people to hospital himself due to the ambulance shortage.

He stated: “In rural areas with long journey times, you have to have an effective ambulance service, so it's important that the numbers shouldn't be reduced.

“If we fail to deliver prompt care for coronary disease, strokes and sepsis, lives will be lost unless we reorganise. It's a stark warning but it's a message that many of my clinical colleagues and I have been putting out for some years – there's no doubt that delayed care costs lives.”

It follows comments from the Chief Executive of NHS Wales earlier this week, who admitted the health service is facing its “most challenging period” since the beginning of the pandemic.

Dr Andrew Goodall was also unable to defend the disparity between the waiting time for NHS treatment with England, where it is five times less likely a patient will have to wait over a year for operation than in Wales, stating more must be done to improve access to care.

Labour’s Health Minister in Cardiff Bay also said this week that she "can't rule out" routine NHS services being suspended during the winter months.

Commenting, Welsh Conservative and Shadow Health Minister Russell George MS said:

“Another day, another stark warning from medical experts to the Labour Cardiff Bay Government about how it is imperative it changes it ways to save our health service from collapse.

“Ministers may want to blame the pandemic but the warning signs were flashing on the dashboard long before that – the NHS treatment backlog doubled in just one year before Covid struck and now is out of control with one-in-five Welsh people of a waiting list.

“Dr Robertson-Steel is right: the worst A&E waits ever, the longest waiting list ever, and the second slowest ambulance response times on ever. It’s no wonder he felt he had to say what he did.

“Welsh Conservatives have long called for rapid diagnostic centres and advocated Covid-light centres for over a year to focus on addressing the backlog and ensuring people did not lockdown to save the NHS only for Labour ministers to squander all that hard work.”


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