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Morgan: Action on health in Wales

Speech to the Welsh Conservative Party conference

"Many of you will have noted from the media this week that health appears, rather unsurprisingly, to be the issue of greatest concern to the people of Wales, and Britain as we approach the expected May election.

Now if I were a Welsh Labour MP and you had just told me that health was the deciding factor for most people in casting their vote in May, frankly I would be petrified!

And rightly so.

There are three hundred thousand people waiting for hospital treatment in Wales today.

That is enough people to fill every seat in this stadium - 4 times over!

It also represents one in ten of the Welsh population.

That, ladies and gentlemen is a truly staggering figure.

Everyone in Wales knows somebody on a waiting list.

But remember that behind the statistics, there are three hundred thousand personal stories - many of tremendous suffering at the hands of a health service simply unable to cope.

In 1997, Labour claimed there were '24 hours in which to save the NHS' - in 1999, they promised that no one would wait more than six months for treatment.

Six months? It takes six months to get a reply from Rhodri Morgan!

I have a constituent in Cardiff North who, by the time he had received a knee replacement last year, had waited not six months, not 12 months. Not even 6 years!

My constituent had waited 8 years for a knee replacement.

I can only imagine the suffering and distress he went through in that time.

Unfortunately, he is not alone.

There are now more administrative staff in the Welsh Health Service than medical and dental professionals combined.

But there is some good news for those who do care about the Welsh NHS.

The mascot of Welsh Labour's abysmal attempt at running the health service, Jane Hutt,

has been fired.

After five dismal years of deceit, failure and breath-taking incompetence, the First Minister decided to replace Ms. Hutt with the Assembly's Environment Minister - who promptly turned it down.

Then he asked the Assembly's Culture Minister, who also declined. So then he was left to chose from a vast ocean of talent on the Labour back benches!

And now we have Dr Brian Gibbons, a man obviously held in such high regard by Rhodri Morgan that he was third choice for the post!

I for one think that's a pretty clear indication just how seriously the Welsh Labour Party view the health service.

Coincidentally, the First Minister chose to sack his closest ally two days before the most damaging indictment yet of the Labour Assembly Government's competence (or lack of it!)

The Auditor General, Sir John Bourn said that initiatives from the Assembly Government had provided [quote] "neither good value for money nor sustainable reductions in waiting times".

And how much public money are we talking about?

4.8 billion pounds to be precise - that's 40% of the total Assembly budget and an increase of 80% since 1997.

So Labour really has made one hell of an achievement - not only have they managed to double the number of people on a waiting list - but they've also managed to double the amount of taxpayers money they're blowing in the process!

Well done, Rhodri - you really have excelled your self this time!

Sadly, the news this week is even worse. On Wednesday, I was informed by a senior consultant that the British Medical Association is proposing a motion of no confidence in the Labour Assembly Government's stewardship of the Welsh NHS.

If the Labour Party in Cardiff have not fully implemented the new Consultant's contract by a week this coming Tuesday, we have been told to expect a strike by doctors across Wales.

The British Medical Association, one of the most influential professional health bodies in the UK is telling the Labour Party in Cardiff quite simply, "We have had enough"

It is true to say that the NHS in Wales, at the hands of Welsh Labour, is facing meltdown.

But why should people trust the Conservatives to do a better job?

Because we have listened and are listening to the needs of patients -

- we have listened to the concerns from nurses, doctors, dentists and consultants

- and we have listened to the advice from independent groups like the British Medical Association and the Royal College of Nursing and charities across Wales.

There is no quick fix for the Welsh NHS - we must be realistic. But the talent and experience of our professionals means we have the raw materials to turn the service around.

However, there are measures that must be taken immediately to address the crisis our

over-stretched and undervalued medical professionals now face.

Before we do anything else, we must act urgently help those three hundred thousand people that have been waiting for so long.

We would utilise the spare capacity in English hospitals, and in the private sector to treat the enormous backlog of waiting patients.

We would ring-fence acute elective beds, ensuring that agreed good practice is mirrored and shared across Wales and with the rest of the UK.

We would introduce efficient bed management and discharge processes with a return to the Matron as a ward manager so that the bed occupancy rates are brought below the critical figure of 85%.

And we would introduce walk-in centres in urban areas to relieve the enormous pressures faced by Accident and Emergency departments across Wales.

In the longer term, the Conservative Party in Westminster has pledged to invest £34 billion identified by the James Committee, and Wales will benefit significantly from that.

That money would be used to fill the 700 nurse vacancies in Wales, to stem the flow of dentists leaving the Welsh NHS and encourage more back into it.

It will be used to pay for Diagnostic and Treatment centres across Wales which will deal with the elective capacity and further reduce pressure on General Hospital wards.

We will launch a 'search and destroy' strategy to identify wards with high rates of MRSA and enable hospitals to eliminate the bacterium."

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