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Nearly 20,000 patients discharged in middle of the night

There needs to be an investigation into why nearly 20,000 patients in Wales have been discharged in the middle of the night.

Research by the Welsh Liberal Democrats, via the Freedom of Information Act, shows that 19,702 patients have been discharged between 11pm and 6am since 2012.

The party discovered that not a single Health Board in Wales records the reasons why patients have been discharged. It is also currently not mandatory for Health Boards to track the leaving time of patients and therefore many have admitted that their data is not necessarily ‘complete or accurate’. Cardiff and Vale UHB was the only health board to withhold the information.

The figures collated are for inpatients only. “Inpatient” means that the procedure requires the patient to be admitted to the hospital, primarily so that he or she can be closely monitored during the procedure and afterwards, during recovery.

It is shocking that nearly 20,000 patients were discharged in the middle of the night. The Welsh Labour Government needs to get to the bottom about why these figures are so startlingly high.

While these figures are just the raw data, behind each of these stats there is a personal story. I want to know why it’s considered reasonable for thousands of people to be leaving hospital at such anti-social hours. I am particularly worried that many of these patients could be elderly or vulnerable.

There are sometimes valid reasons for patients to be released from hospitals in the middle of the night. However these figures are exceptionally high and I am concerned that the well-known pressure on beds could be leading to people being discharged at inappropriate times.

The current system for collating this important data isn’t fit for purpose. Hospitals aren’t properly recording why and when patients are being discharged. This is potentially a major problem that is slipping under the radar. We are calling on the Welsh Labour Government to ensure this data is recorded accurately and thoroughly so we can see the extent of the problem.

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Education test fiasco highlights Welsh Government’s failure to learn

News that teaching unions have strongly criticised the latest literacy and numeracy tests in Wales are harsh words indeed from the teaching unions but they reflect a failure by the Welsh Government to learn from previous mistakes.

I am certain that if the Education Minister or his officials had asked the teachers themselves, they would have been told that this system needed to be changed.

The fact that the president of the National Association of Head Teachers has been moved to call this a “complete and utter shambles” shows just how strongly school leaders feel about the situation and it does not give me confidence that the Minister has been working on these tests in a collaborative way.

With only two days to go until the end of term, and with the test results arriving back in schools just this week, for a Welsh Government spokesperson to say that schools have “more than enough time” to get those results out to parents shows how out of touch the Welsh Government is with the education workforce.

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Cancer waiting time target not met for 6 years

The latest set of cancer waiting times are a “disgrace”, showing a further reduction in the percentage of urgent suspected cancer patients being treated within the 62 day target.

New figures for May show that only 88.5% of newly-diagnosed urgent suspected cancer patients started their treatment within 62 days. This is down from 89.7% in April 2014.

The Welsh Government’s target of 95% of urgent suspected cancer patients starting treatment in the 62 day window has not been met since June 2008, six years ago.

The fact that the Welsh Labour Government’s cancer waiting time target hasn’t been met for 6 years now is a disgrace. Labour’s Health Minister pledged earlier this year that this target would be met, yet things are going backwards under his watch.

Being diagnosed with cancer can be terrifying for patients and their families. It’s completely unacceptable that many are being forced to wait over two months until they start their treatment, adding to the anxiety and fear that they’ll be facing.

I wish I could say this was the extent of the problems in our health service, but the simple fact is that the Welsh Labour Government constantly fail to deliver for Wales.

Cancer waiting times not met in 6 years. A&E waiting time targets never met. The worst ambulance response times in the whole of the UK. Welsh Labour’s dire record on our NHS is plain for all to see. The people of Wales deserve better than Welsh Labour’s NHS.

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Continued fall in Welsh unemployment welcome

I welcome the drop in unemployment of 6000 people across Wales.

This is yet more good news for Wales and the UK. It is showing that the UK Government is on the right track in repairing Britain’s economy and equipping it for the future. Because of the work of the Liberal Democrats in Government, our economy is one of the fastest-growing in the developed world. However, we recognise that there is still a long way to go.

Hopefully the stronger economy will help young people find sustainable and meaningful employment, especially those graduating this month.

Last week we learnt that the Welsh Auditor General has serious concerns about the Welsh Labour Government’s approach to helping 19-24 year olds gain employment. The Welsh Government needs to be ambitious in tackling the problem of youth unemployment once and for all.

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M4 plans a “huge mistake”

Today’s announcement that the ‘black route’ will be followed for the new M4 development is strongly opposed by the Welsh Liberal Democrats.

The Economy Minister claims that no reasons were provided during the consultation process objecting to the ‘black route’. This ignores environmental concerns raised during the consultation process by Friends of the Earth, the RSPB and Sustrans, and economic concerns raised by the Federation of Small Businesses, as well as the submission by the Welsh Liberal Democrats.

The Welsh Liberal Democrats prefer the ‘blue route’, which is the redevelopment of the A48 Southern Distributor Road and A4810 Steelworks Access Road. This route was not consulted upon by the Welsh Government in this latest consultation.

This decision is a huge mistake, and completely flies in the face of the environmental and economic issues that have been raised by the Welsh Liberal Democrats and many other organisations throughout this process.

The consultation process appears to have been nothing more than a sham. The Minister’s claim that there were no reasons why the ‘black route’ could not be adopted completely ignores evidence provided to her by the RSPB, Sustrans and the Federation of Small Businesses.

There are still huge questions surrounding the economic benefit of this development. Investing the Welsh Government’s entire borrowing powers into one single road leaves no money left for other transport projects like the South Wales Metro, which can provide much greater economic benefit for the whole area.

Our proposed alternatives are far less expensive, less likely to damage vast swathes of our environment and are academically recommended. It’s shocking that the Welsh Labour Minister is remaining blinkered, ignoring these credible proposals and ploughing ahead regardless.

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Pupil Premium success in England must be replicated in Wales

I welcome the news that the Liberal Democrats’ flagship Pupil Premium policy has been judged to be closing the attainment gap between richer and poorer pupils in England.

The Welsh Liberal Democrats successfully negotiated a Welsh equivalent, the Pupil Deprivation Grant (PDG), in successive Welsh budget negotiations with the Welsh Government. As a result, this year schools have received £918 per pupil on free school meals, to help close the attainment gap and break the link between poverty and underachievement.

According to a report by Ofsted, the attainment gap between free school meal children and their peers was closing in all schools in England judged by them to be good or outstanding for overall effectiveness.

The Welsh Government has not yet confirmed whether PDG funding will continue at the higher £918 level for future years, or whether it will drop to the original £450 per pupil originally negotiated by the Welsh Lib Dems. This has created uncertainty, leaving schools unable to plan for the longer term and create lasting effective projects.

Teachers across Wales have told me that the Pupil Deprivation Grant has made a huge difference in their schools. We’ve found many examples of this money being put to good use in Welsh schools, helping to boost the performance of some of our poorest pupils. One school even said that the attainment gap between the richest and poorest children had gone as a result of this funding.

There is no doubt that this funding is having a positive effect on the attainment of pupils from more disadvantaged backgrounds. However, schools are in an uncertain position because this funding has not been guaranteed for future years by the Welsh Labour Government. Schools need to be able to plan for the longer term, and should not be left in limbo with regards to this crucial funding being in place for future years.

All the research shows that intervening early is crucial in improving the future life chances of children. This is why the Welsh Lib Dems want this scheme extended to pupils under 5 years old, so they too can take advantage of this money and give these children the targeted support that they so often need.

The Welsh Liberal Democrats fought for the Pupil Deprivation Grant because we want to eradicate the attainment gap between rich and poor pupils, giving our children the best start in life. The Welsh Government needs to give schools in Wales certainty that this level of funding will continue in the future, to ensure that our poorest children carry on receiving this vital support to get on in life.

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