The Welsh Assembly has never got a “handle” on the Welsh health service and in its early years wrongly assumed that health education and healthier lifestyles would compensate for poor NHS provision and poor management.
That’s the message from Dr Sian Caiach, health spokesman for Wales’ newest political party GWLAD, which is committed to universal healthcare, who cites latest statistics which show a worrying trend:
- Mortality rates rose by 2.1 per cent for women across Wales between 2011 and 2016, according to the Office of National statistics.
- In 2018, there were 541,589 deaths registered in England and Wales, an increase of 1.6% compared with 2017 (533,253), the highest annual number of deaths since 1999.
- In Wales, the rates per 100,000 were higher compared with England for both males (1,231.0) and females (915.9).
- The stillbirth rate in Wales in 2018 was 4.4 per 1,000 births and the neonatal mortality rate was 2.5 neonatal deaths per 1,000 live births.
“These figures only confirm what we at GWLAD have known for decades, when it comes to health care we are being left behind, and something must be done to improve our health service,” said Dr Sian Caiach, the party’s health spokesman.
“We are fully committed to the principle of universal free health care, and firmly opposed to privatisation of healthcare,” said Dr Caiach. “ We recognise the efforts and dedication of past and present frontline staff delivering health services under difficult conditions.
“However, Labour’s mismanagement of the service, including encouraging private involvement and the total lack of even consulting meaningfully before putting in major changes, means we have spent a lot of time in the last 20 years fighting our own government over health and losing.
“The current NHS structure has diverged too far from its original vision and become too centralised and bureaucratic under the control of unelected health boards,” she said.
“The truth is that current system of health funding through central government from general taxation and National Insurance Contributions is unsustainable, and we propose to develop an alternative system, modelled on best practices from other small European countries such as Luxembourg, combining government funding with mandatory health insurance, said Dr Caiach.”
The party believes that the current system does not always represent good value for money or provide the most effective health care – other countries have developed more effective systems for the delivery of health services. Wales needs to learn from their best practices.
“For example, we do not train enough of our own doctors and nurses and have to rely permanently on doctors from beyond our borders,” said Dr Caiach. “We believe that medical and nursing vocational training should be expanded, allowing our young people the chance to enter a rewarding and fulfilling career.”
GWLAD wants more local health services – by combining smaller GP clinics into ‘Polyclinics’ which are able to provide a wider range of services locally, including many outpatient services, similar to former ‘cottage hospitals’. These ‘Polyclinics’ could be run as mutual medical cooperatives – funded by the health service but self-managed.
“For specialist acute care and elective surgery, services are best provided by larger institutions, but we recognise that this presents particular challenges in a country with as scattered a population and such poor transport infrastructure as Wales,” Dr Caiach added. “Investment in transport infrastructure must have a high priority, not only because of its direct benefit to the economy but facilitate more efficient healthcare provision across the country.