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10% increase in patients experiencing delay in transfer of care

The latest figures show a 10.8% annual increase in the number of patients experiencing a delayed transfer of care.

There are still far too many patients being forced to wait too long until they are discharged or until they are transferred to another care setting.

Under the Welsh Labour Government, we have seen a huge reduction in the number of hospital beds. This has meant there simply aren’t enough available to meet demand. It also means we need a much greater focus on community care, with greater co-ordination between social services and health services – something the Welsh Liberal Democrats have long campaigned on.

It is critical that timely discharge arrangements are in place to ensure that the limited number of beds available are freed up. Otherwise a domino effect takes place where the problem just gets rapidly worse.

Both patients and NHS staff deserve better than this, but the Welsh Labour Government’s poverty of ambition continues to hold our health service back.

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Worrying” urgent cancer treatment decline in every part of Wales

In the quarter up to March 2015, only 83.9% of Welsh patients diagnosed via the Urgent Suspected Cancer route began treatment within the target 62 days – down from 88.0% in the previous quarter. Cardiff and the Vale health board had the lowest percentage receiving timely treatment, with only 81.2% beginning treatment within 2 months.

The target of 95% of urgent patients beginning treatment within 62 days has not been met since 2008, and was not met by a single health board in the last quarter.

These statistics are incredibly worrying. We’ve seen a percentage decline in those starting treatment within the target time in every single health board in Wales, and not a single one meeting the target.

It’s been eight years since the target of 95% was met in Wales, yet this hasn’t been met with any urgent action by Welsh Labour Ministers. Their poverty of ambition for our nation runs deep in our health services, and Welsh patients are suffering because of it.

Welsh Liberal Democrats want parties to put politics aside and work together to sort out our NHS. Our call for a cross-party commission with input from patients and clinicians was supported by organisations like the Royal College of Nursing, but fell on deaf ears in the other opposition parties who unfortunately decided to put politics before patients.

It’s easy to forget that behind every number is a cancer patient needing urgent treatment, and every single one who has to wait for over two months to begin treatment is one too many.

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EU referendum must not detract from focus on Assembly elections

The Welsh Liberal Democrats have called on the UK Government to ensure that their planned EU referendum does not clash with elections to the National Assembly for Wales.

Holding a referendum on EU membership in the run up to or at the same time as Welsh Assembly elections would restrict the ability for a full debate on the future of Wales and devolved issues.

Our membership of the European Union is one of the biggest questions facing our country. For that reason, if an EU referendum were to clash with an Assembly election campaign there is a huge risk that it would completely overshadow it.

The Welsh people need time to consider the important issues at stake in next year’s election. Holding a referendum of such importance at the same time as these elections would be detrimental to ensuring a focused and informed debate on the issues facing the people of Wales.

Liberal Democrats are convinced that our future as a country is leading the EU, not leaving it, and we will always make that case against pulling up the drawbridge and turning our backs on Europe.

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Devolve drink-drive limit and lower it in Wales

The Welsh Liberal Democrats have called for the powers to set the drink-drive limit to be devolved to the Welsh Government, and for that limit to then be lowered in Wales.

During First Minister’s Questions last week I called on the First Minister to agree to put pressure on the UK Government to lower the drink-drive limit across England and Wales, and in the meantime press for the devolution of the power so that the National Assembly can decide on behalf of the people of Wales.

Last year the cross-party Silk Commission recommended that a range of road safety measures were devolved to Wales, including the drink-drive limit and speed limits. However this recommendation did not feature in the St David’s Day agreement.

The Police Federation have called for the drink drive limit across England and Wales to be lowered in line with other European Countries and Scotland.

Lowering the drink drive will undoubtedly save lives here in Wales. We have about the most lax drink-drive limit in the whole of Europe and this must change.

The cross-party Silk Commission recommended that drink driving limits should be devolved, yet bizarrely some parties decided to veto this during the St David’s Day talks. These powers should be devolved as a matter of principle, but if there is to be any delay by the Conservative Government in lowering this limit then the priority should be bringing these powers to Wales as quickly as possible.

It’s time the First Minister spoke up and called for the devolution of this power so that we in Wales can lower it ourselves.

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Welsh Labour Government continues to let down our poorest pupils

The Welsh Government has poorly implemented the Lib Dems’ Pupil Premium idea compared to the Coalition Government’s implementation in England.

The Year 1 evaluation report of the PDG found that most teachers surveyed perceived that PDG interventions were having a positive impact on pupils. However, the enquiry by the Children, Young People and Education Committee found confusion as to the purpose of the grant among schools, with many not aware of the need to specifically target pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds.

The Welsh Pupil Premium was first agreed in budget negotiations between the Welsh Liberal Democrats and the Welsh Government in 2011. From April 2016, it will be worth £1,150 for every child eligible for free school meals. A total of £282m has been secured under the scheme since 2012.

On almost every measure, Labour ministers are making a pig’s ear of supporting our poorest pupils.

Unlike the Welsh Government’s ‘Foundation Phase’, evidence shows that the Welsh Pupil Premium is having a positive impact in supporting our poorest pupils. However, time and time again we hear of how the Welsh Labour Government simply isn’t doing enough to allow this policy to reach its full potential.

Still there are too many Welsh schools that are unaware of how they should be targeting this extra investment, and many aren’t even using the best practice toolkit supplied to them. These are simple steps that could easily be rectified, but the Welsh Labour Government is failing to take action.

In England, there are clear monitoring procedures in place, but Labour Ministers in Wales keep passing the buck to unelected and unaccountable consortia who are seemingly doing very little to make sure this money is spent properly. The Welsh Labour Government needs to realise that the buck stops with them.

The Welsh Liberal Democrats are the party of education. We are the only opposition party in the Assembly to secure extra money for our schools and we were the only party in the General Election pledging to increase education funding because we want to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to a fair start in life.

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Co-operation needed to secure Cardiff Airport’s future

The decision by CityJet to cancel their flights from Cardiff Airport to Paris and Edinburgh is a blow to the airport.

I’m disappointed that CityJet haven’t chosen to build a long-term future at Cardiff Airport and work with the Airport to develop its offer. Other UK airports like Cardiff are able to sustain a number of different carriers, and we must try and avoid the situation where Cardiff becomes too dependent on just one.

We all want Cardiff Airport to be a success, but that sustainable future will only come if the Airport can diversify its routes and bring in a strong customer base. In order for that to happen, all of the Welsh Government’s might needs to be behind efforts to identify routes.

Enterprise zones, Visit Wales and the Airport management need to be working closely together in a way that I fear isn’t happening at the moment, and Welsh Ministers should be taking a lead in fostering that co-operation.

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