“Justice delayed is justice denied”.
This phrase is usually used in the context of a court case or some kind of investigation, usually when someone has been accused of wrongdoing. But can it also apply to elsewhere?
As citizens and taxpayers in a developed country, if we do not receive timely healthcare and have to wait months, even years, for treatment, languishing in pain, is that just?
Readers will know how often health is a news story, particularly in Wales which seems to be much more ill than elsewhere in the United Kingdom due to its demographics – itself a consequence of public policy failure, not just an unhelpful coincidence – and that waiting times are a key indicator of how well the Welsh NHS is being run, as it has been by Labour for the last quarter of a century.
Well, the latest statistics show Wales just recorded the worst A&E waits, longest NHS treatment list, and second slowest ambulance response times on record.
1-in-5 people are on a waiting list in Wales. That means, on average, when you walk past four people, one of you is waiting for NHS treatment.
You may think that it’s probably just as bad elsewhere in the UK. And while it is a difficult situation nationally, it is awful in Wales.
And it is not getting better: 1-in-4 of those on a list are waiting over a year for treatment. This has gotten worse over recent months. In England, it was never as bad and has progressively improved, with only 1-in-20 waiting more than 12 months.
64,000 people in Wales wait over two years and average waits are 10 weeks longer than in England.
Labour ministers in Cardiff Bay blame Covid. Considering the waiting list doubled in the year before the pandemic hit, I blame them.
And what about emergency care? How will you fare when you are bleeding, having a stroke, with broken bones, or something else that has plunged you into one of the most stressful and scariest days you’ll ever experience?
Over a third of you, 35%, won’t even be seen within the four-hour target, never met in its 13-year existence. In England and Scotland, the equivalent figures were 28% and 34%, respectively.
Nearly 11,000 patients waited over 12 hours in Welsh hospitals, a 57% increase since March 2021 and those aged over 85 spent an average of eight hours to be seen in A&E.
Only 51% of responses to immediately life-threatening calls arrived within eight minutes. The target of 65% of red-calls reaching their patient within that time has not been reached in over 18 months.
We take pride in our NHS staff, but we cannot – should not – be proud of how it is run when the patients that pay for it are left to suffer like this.
It is why we held a debate on this in the Senedd earlier this month. While, it is undeniable that Covid had a significant impact on our health service, we desperately need a plan to reduce unacceptable record waiting times that leave hundreds of thousands of people languishing in pain.
However, Labour’s late and unambitious proposals will not address the significant faults in the delivery of emergency and elective healthcare – its headline aim still includes tens of thousands waiting over a year for treatment in three years’ time.
It is all the more depressing because of the progress we see in England and Scotland, knowing that this plan has been months in the working, and that our many solid proposals over the last two years have been largely ignored, including when the then-Health Minister said a plan was foolish.
Our proposals to reduce waiting times included regional surgical and rapid diagnostic centres across the country to make up the backlog of diagnostics and treatments, encouragement to use other services like pharmacists and minor injury units to take the pressure off hospitals, and our GP Access Plan – with measures and funds to improve access to appointments, support to upgrade GP booking systems, cutting red tape, and improvements in transparency.
The Welsh Conservatives have a plan. Labour’s is an unambitious sticking plaster that is totally inadequate to the challenge we face.
Labour need to get a grip on the NHS and stop breaking all the wrong records.