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Unacceptable delays in North Wales

We all know from seeing the queues of ambulances outside Wrexham Maelor’s Accident and Emergency (A&E) Department that many patients are waiting too long before they receive treatment. This was reflected in statistics this week that show our hospital and Glan Clwyd face the greatest challenge in performance in Wales with only Morriston Hospital in Swansea in a worse situation.

For the month of November 70.3% of patients spent less than four hours or more in Wrexham’s A&E from arrival, until admission, transfer or discharge. Ysbyty Glan Clwyd at Bodelwyddan was slightly worse at 70.1% but both figures are not even within striking distance of the Welsh Government’s target of 95%.

But even more worrying is the 273 people in November who had to wait in Wrexham’s A&E department for over 12 hours. And in Ysbyty Glan Clwyd it was even worse – 370 had to wait over 12 hours.

Cancer patients also have to wait longer for treatment. In February the Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board achieved the Welsh Government’s 95% target for newly diagnosed cancer patients being seen within 62 days or 9 weeks. But since then this figure has declined to 83.6% in October – this means 17.4% started their treatment over 9 weeks after being diagnosed.

This delay in treatment is not acceptable and I worry that some patients’ cancer is not being treated quickly enough to give them the best chance of beating the disease.

The figures for the Betsi Cadwaladr Health Board show a significant increase in treatment delays between May and June of this year. Between these two months the number of newly diagnosed cancer patients starting treatment within 62 days of diagnosis dropped from 90% to 81.7%.

I have seen constituents who appear to be waiting long periods before they start their cancer treatment and I will pursue this issue with the Health Board officials to find out the cause for these increasing delays.

I know that there are some very dedicated staff working in our NHS and these delays must be as frustrating for them as anyone else. The Leader of the Liberal Democrats Kirsty Williams has called for a Commission to be created with cross-party, patient and staff input to find out why our NHS is underperforming and plan for the future.

The NHS is too precious to be used as a political football but residents are rightly concerned as to the worsening situation

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Homophobic bullying report shows Welsh Labour Government approach isn’t working

A report from Stonewall Cymru has established that homophobic bullying is still a major issue in schools in Wales.

It is a sad reflection of life in today’s schools that the prevalence of homophobic bullying is so high: 87% of secondary school teachers say homophobic bullying happens in their school and 85% of school staff have not received specific training on how to tackle homophobic bullying.

This report shows that the Welsh Labour Government’s bullying guidance just isn’t working.

If, as this report suggests, a third of teachers hear homophobic language from other school staff, then serious questions must be asked about how well-equipped schools are to deal with situations where young people are experiencing systematic bullying because of their sexuality.

I welcome the fact that Stonewall Cymru is putting a programme in place to help address the bullying, but the Welsh Labour Government must take a much more assertive stance in order to turn policy promises into reality.

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CANCER STATS: Patchy plan implementation demonstrated by latest figures

The continued patchy implementation of the Welsh Labour Government’s Cancer Delivery Plan is demonstrated by the latest cancer waiting times.

While some health boards have seen an increase in the percentage of urgent cancer patients seen within the target 62 days, three health boards (Cardiff and Vale, Betsi Cadwaladr and Hywel Dda) have all seen declines in these times.

Not a single Welsh health board met the 95% target for urgent cancer patients. On a Wales-wide basis, this target has still not been met since 2008.

The Assembly’s Health and Social Care Committee first raised concerns with the implementation of the Cancer Delivery Plan in October 2014.

If the Welsh Labour Government was implementing its Cancer Delivery Plan effectively, we should be seeing a steady rise in patients being treated in a timely manner across all parts of Wales. This patchy outlook of services shows a lack of leadership by Welsh Labour Ministers on cancer services.

Not a single health board in Wales is meeting its targets for urgent patients, and across Wales the target still hasn’t been met since 2008. Hundreds of Welsh cancer patients needing urgent care have been left waiting over two months before starting their treatment, at a time when support and swift action is vital.

I wish that this was the extent of the problems in the Welsh NHS, but the reality is that it’s just the tip of the iceberg. With youth mental health services in crisis and the worst ambulance response times in the UK, it’s clear that the problems in our health service run deep.

These problems are far more important than party politics, and we need to get round the table and sort them out. This is why I’m calling for a Commission with cross-party, patient and staff input to sort out this mess and plan for the future of health and social care in Wales.

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Wales lags behind UK new unemployment stats show

The Welsh unemployment rate is reducing at a slower rate than any other UK region new figures released this week show.

Statistics published by ONS show that compared to last year the Welsh unemployment rate dropped by just 0.3%, compared to 1.3% in Northern Ireland, 1.6% in Scotland and the South West, 2% in the West Midlands, 2.3% in London.

We’ve seen and continue to see a fall in Welsh unemployment, which is welcome, but we have the slowest growth rate of the whole of the UK, year on year.

We need to find out why the unemployment rate is falling six times faster in the West Midlands and four times faster in Scotland for example.

The Welsh Labour Government needs to redouble it’s efforts to reduce unemployment in Wales, especially for the long term unemployed. Its job creation schemes remain unambitious and badly targeted.

What is clear is that even though we’re heading in the right direction by reducing unemployment, the leaps forward made elsewhere in the UK are not being repeated here in Wales thanks to over a decade of poor economic management by the Welsh Labour Government.

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12 hour wait figures reach 20 month high

Figures published yesterday once again reveal that the Welsh Labour government’s A&E targets have been badly missed.

For the month of November, 83.8% of patients spent less than four hours in Wales’ Accident & Emergency departments from arrival, until admission, transfer or discharge. This is despite a target of 95%.

It has also been revealed that 2,034 patients spent twelve hours or more in A&E last month. The highest the figure has been since April 2013.

There are some shocking statistics in today’s figures. For example, last month over 30% of patients in Morriston Hospital waited over 4 hours in A&E. Likewise, it’s absolutely disgraceful that over 2000 patients have had to spend more than twelve hours in A&E departments.

Last April Ed Miliband said that ‘A&E was the barometer of the NHS’. Sadly here in Wales, where Labour run the NHS, their A&E target has never been met, and the figures are heading in the wrong direction.

The hardworking A&E staff are doing all they can, but unfortunately they are being held back by the poverty of ambition from the Welsh Labour Government.

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Extension needed to Grocery Code Adjudicator’s Role

Sharp decreases in the price of commodities, such as milk, lamb and beef, have highlighted the limitations of the Grocery Code Adjudicator.

Recent experience with the dramatic reduction in the price of milk being sold off the farm has highlighted the restricted role that the Grocery Code Adjudicator or supermarket ombudsman has at its disposal. The adjudicator can only supervise the voluntary code relating to the sale of produce from the farmer directly to the supermarkets. Most farmers, including the 2500 in my constituency, almost all sell to abattoirs and meat processors before their product lands on the supermarket shelf.

It is important that the whole of the food chain, from the farm gate to the customer, is transparent if we are to ensure that no excessive profit is made by anyone of the suppliers.

I was pleased when the Adjudicator was introduced, but now we need to build on that to make sure that it is fit for purpose. That both the farmer and the consumer is getting good value.”

Formulating a Common Agriculture Policy for the whole of the European Union is a difficult ask. Farming is so different in Greece than it is in Finland. However, a common policy is important so that UK farmers can export for instance the 40% of our lamb production, which exceeds home demand.

An official from DEFRA said that they believed direct payment to farmers were a poor and inefficient way of supporting agriculture. However, I pointed out that for those farmers experiencing low prices for milk, lamb and beef the direct payment ensured that there was sufficient cash in the business to invest for next year’s production. The Pillar II money, while being welcomed, will not replace the importance of direct payments.

Meurig Raymond, President of the NFU, made a powerful and impressive presentation on the importance of agriculture and the food industry to the UK economy. 15% of our national GDP derives from food production, processing and retail.

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