“Crisis? What crisis?” says Drakeford to Welsh NHS staffing shortfalls

The First Minister tried to bat away accusations of a staffing crisis today despite being confronted by testimony from doctors and failures to meet safe staffing requirements.

In FMQs, Welsh Conservative leader Andrew RT Davies MS highlighted figures uncovered by the Party that revealed every single A&E department in Wales was inadequately staffed.

It follows news from this morning of the British Medical Association Cymru saying the wolf is at the door of the NHS in Wales, where health has been the responsibility of Labour for 25 years.

Commenting afterwards, Leader of the Opposition Andrew RT Davies MS said:

“The First Minister’s responses today were totally tone deaf to the testimony we heard from doctors on the front line and the figures that show understaffing in every single Welsh A&E department, nevermind the ones he wasn’t confronted with like the extra 1,200 nurse vacancies built up over the last year.

“He may claim there are more staff than ever before in NHS Wales, but that is completely meaningless when you’re stuck waiting in A&E for a whole day or lying on a stretcher in a corridor or on a treatment waiting list for two years in pain because there’s no staff to see you.

“When you consider the state of hospitals, is it any wonder nurses are striking when their working conditions are like this or that patients are paying to go private abroad when they have to experience record long delays for treatment?

“Labour need to get a grip on the NHS and focus on the people’s priorities rather than waste time with pet projects like calamitous constitutional commissions and toxic tourism taxes.”

According to Freedom of Information requests made to Wales’ health boards, all its major hospitals are falling well short of the recommended ‘baseline’ for staffing levels in emergency departments.

The Royal College of Emergency Medicine (RCEM) sets a ‘baseline’ for the number of WTE (working-time equivalent) consultants which should be employed in the department to guarantee safe cover. At present no hospital is close to meeting this baseline in Wales, placing patients in potential danger.

The most understaffed A&E units were in Aberystwyth’s Bronglais Hospital (13%), the Central Valleys’ Royal Glamorgan Hospital (26%), and Ysbyty Glan Clwyd near Rhyl (32%).

BMA Cymru chairwoman Dr Iona Collins has described the "heartbreak" of seeing patients being treated in corridors and 14-hour ambulance wait times become "the norm", adding staff morale is at "rock bottom", with many thinking about leaving the profession.

Mark Drakeford said that more people were employed in the Welsh NHS than ever before. But this has not prevented a significant number of NHS vacancies, including the number of nurse vacancies expanding by 1,200 in just the last year, a major source of anger for soon-to-strike nurses.

In spite of all this, Wales has the longest treatment waiting lists and worst A&E waits in Britain, and recently recorded its slowest ambulance response times on record.

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People want more nurses, doctors and teachers to tackle our huge waiting times and improve exam results, not more politicians. Labour and Plaid not only want 36 extra Members of the Welsh Parliament but they want to end the historic link of communities having a direct representative.

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