Andrew RT Davies is the Leader of the Welsh Conservatives and Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly for Wales
We are all now aware of the Mid-Staffs fiasco that took place in England just a few years ago. The inquiry that came out of the scandal, led by Sir Bruce Keogh, continues to look at improving the patient outcomes and experience in the English NHS. That can only be a good thing. There now needs to be one in Wales.
This week, the Welsh NHS has been shocked by one of the worst reports ever published on a Welsh hospital – the Princess of Wales in Bridgend. Some of the evidence provided by patients and their families was simply heartbreaking to read. We heard of a lady being left without medication, food or water for days. Another patient was left with a cloth and a bowl, yet unable to clean himself. His family found him with dried excrement on his legs. And an elderly lady, stuck in a bed with bedrails described her situation as “being in hell.” These examples weren’t from years ago; they were from just a couple of months ago, and possibly still continuing.
After the report was published, I raised the issue with Carwyn Jones – Welsh Labour’s Leader – at First Minister’s Question time. I demanded an apology and, thankfully, he gave one. But apologies won’t fix the Welsh NHS. What needs to happen is a full, independent inquiry across the whole of it. I have been calling for this since last July, and will continue to do so because, for patients with experiences such as the ones I’ve outlined, an apology is not enough. We need to stop any chance of a repeat of such mishandling.
A fully independent inquiry into the Welsh NHS would give clinicians and health professionals the chance to start afresh, to look at what needs to be done in our hospitals and to put patients at the forefront of care. I believe in our Welsh NHS. From very personal experience – good and bad – I know how it is there in our hour of need. No other state service provision is as personal as the NHS.
Some of the most traumatic experiences of my life have happened at the hospital at the centre of this report – the Princess of Wales in Bridgend. My own father died there in 2008, and my family and I have made our own complaints about the level of care provided in that case. The thing about the NHS is that it touches many peoples’ lives and that is what is so worrying about the Andrews’ Report published this week. Those people who complained saw their loved ones experience a level of care that simply wasn’t good enough and in some cases was inhumane.
What worries me is that the evidence taken from Bridgend suggests that these problems are also happening elsewhere. We know that one in seven people in Wales is on an NHS waiting list.
Accident and Emergency waiting times haven’t been met since 2009. Five years of missed targets. Real people, made to wait in agony.
So, almost daily, we demand an Keogh-style inquiry and Welsh Labour bat it away – at first saying it was a gimmick, then saying it would be too costly at £1 million and now saying the Tories are at “war with Wales.” It would be easy to be exasperated by such complacency. Welsh Labour is in complete and utter denial about the Welsh NHS. They need to see the evidence stacking up and start making a difference.
That evidence is extensive. From Tuesday’s Andrews Report to missed waiting times to UK press coverage and even from Welsh Labour themselves.
Ann Clwyd’s husband’s tragic case led to her gathering evidence from patients across England and many from Wales too. Welsh Labour’s response? Carwyn Jones said she refused to publish the evidence. He wouldn’t listen to his own senior colleague. Think that’s bad? Wait and see what they did next. She was invited not once, but twice to appear before the Welsh Assembly’s Health Committee to provide her evidence and Welsh Labour was whipped to block her! It is truly astonishing.
The Andrews Report ought to be the last straw. The fact that it said “This is not a Mid-Staffs situation” in the foreword with some sort of pride should worry us all. The examples from patients and their families are nothing short of a national scandal. When I read some of the examples I was more shocked that some of them didn’t come as a surprise. How wrong that is. This is malpractice happening as we speak and needs to be stopped.
So today again, I plead to Welsh Labour’s conscience to stop blocking a full independent Keogh-style inquiry – and let’s draw a line under this very sad period of Welsh NHS history.