“No hope for patients” as Drakeford sinks under NHS questioning

The First Minister resorted to cheap partisan points in the Senedd today as he could not defend his government’s “horrendous” record when it came to NHS waiting times.

Andrew RT Davies MS took Mark Drakeford to task in FMQs, highlighting the number of patients waiting over two years in Wales – 68,032 – which has risen by nearly 900% in one year.

That means the number in Wales is five times the figure for the whole of England, 12,735, where it is falling consistently after peaking at 23,778 in January.

When Davies asked what hope the Labour Government could give these patients who are languishing in pain after over two years of waiting, when conditions could get even worse, Drakeford could not provide any solutions, only excuses for why so many people are waiting.

When the Leader of the Opposition pointed this out, the progress being made under the Conservatives in England, and asked about the meagre number of surgical hubs – which Welsh Conservatives have been calling for since Summer 2020 – the First Minister said:

“I’m not going to trade figures with him” before immediately saying “more than twice the population of Wales is now on a waiting list in England”. Around 1-in-8 people in England are waiting for NHS treatment but Drakeford neglected to mention it is 1-in-5 in Wales.

Desperate to distract from the blinding failures of the Labour Government, Drakeford reverted to his attack lines on the UK Conservative Government, saying the Conservative Party were "unlikely to come up with a plan for the NHS anywhere in the UK,” despite evidence to the contrary.

In Wales, 1-in-4 patients wait over a year compared to 1-in-20 in England and the average wait for treatment in Wales is 10 weeks longer (23 to 13).

 Commenting afterwards, the Welsh Conservative leader Andrew RT Davies MS said:

“I am not surprised to see the First Minister resort to partisan slurs when the record he has to defend is so horrendous, but I’m also disappointed he would not offer patients waiting years for NHS treatment the hope they desperately crave.

“There are 68,000 people languishing in pain on waiting lists and while Covid did not help, we cannot forget that this number is rapidly rising while they are dramatically falling in England where the Conservatives are making progress because they did not dither on rolling out surgical hubs.

“Not only that, but the total waiting list doubled in the year before the pandemic so the blame must squarely lie with the Labour Government who clearly cannot face being held accountable for the shambles they preside over – they know they have been far too slow on surgical hubs.

“I will never blame the frontline doctors and nurses who work tirelessly to reduce this backlog, but I will not let Labour ministers in Cardiff Bay get away with putting more politicians and a tourism tax ahead of suffering patients when we can see solutions in action working elsewhere in the UK.”

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