Will the First Minister make a statement on health service waiting times across north Wales?
Llywydd, despite increased demand, there has been a reduction over the last year of nearly 30 per cent in the number of people waiting over 36 weeks for treatment in Betsi Cadwaladr. Further work, however, is required and is being undertaken in order to bring all waiting times within Welsh Government targets.
Thank you, First Minister, and I do actually appreciate the acknowledgment about further work required, but, let's be honest, direct interventions by your Welsh Government into the Betsi Cadwaladr University Local Health Board were implemented in June 2015, pending a number of vast improvements that were required. In reality, patients across north Wales are still seeing increased waiting time misery. We have just seen the worst ever percentage of patients seen within the four-hour target time for A&E; ear nose and throat—an almost 9 point increase in the percentage of patients' pathways waiting over 36 weeks to start treatment, as is the case for pain management. And those waiting over 24 weeks for a flexible sigmoidoscopy has increased in percentage terms by 4,900 per cent. 4
Now, I have a number of cases where constituents are waiting sadly far too long for treatment, such as one elderly lady who fell in June last year, shattering her shoulder, and who has now been advised that she's likely to wait at least another nine months in agonising pain. First Minister, there are waiting time issues across this health board for various treatments and services. Now, it is clear to me, and I think to other Members in this Chamber, and, indeed, to our patients in north Wales, that after three and a half years, your own health Minister continues to fail as regards the functions and workings of this health board. As the First Minister with ultimate responsibility, is it not time now that you started to take more of a hold on what's going on in this health board, and perhaps look at a better way of managing the direct interventions into this health board?
Well, Llywydd, I continue to take a direct interest in everything that goes on in the health service, including in north Wales. At the time that Betsi Cadwaladr was put into special measures, there were real concerns about its maternity services. Those have improved and are no longer regarded as in need to be in special measures. There were real concerns about out-of-hours services, which have improved significantly. There were concerns about delayed transfers of care, and they were down by 22 per cent in November and 24 per cent in December. There are many things that are getting better in Betsi Cadwaladr, but we recognise that there are people who wait too long for treatment, despite the fact that 36-week waits are down, 26-week waits are down, and the median waiting time for treatment in the health board is 8.4 weeks from the point that someone is referred for treatment to the point when that treatment has been carried out.