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Last Updated: Friday, 17 September, 2004, 10:56 GMT 11:56 UK
Minister attacked in cancer wait
Theresa Debono
Theresa Debono may borrow money to pay for a mammogram
A Labour MP trying to help a woman facing a 17-week wait to learn if she has breast cancer has condemned the Welsh health minister's response.

Ex-Welsh Office health minister Jon Owen Jones said assembly health minister Jane Hutt's reply was "inadequate and complacent".

Mother-of-two Theresa Debono, 40, from Roath in Cardiff, still needs a mammogram to diagnose a lump.

Ms Hutt said she remained deeply concerned, and expected "prompt action" from the local health board.

The recommended wait for a mammogram is just 10 days, but Ms Debono has already waited 10 weeks and faces a further seven weeks before a lump on her breast can be diagnosed.
How can it be possible that the situation has deteriorated so much in four years during which time there has been an unprecedented increase in NHS funding?
Jon Owen Jones MP
Cardiff Central MP Mr Jones, who was a health minister in the Welsh Office before the assembly was set up, held a news conference earlier this week to highlight her plight.

Ms Hutt agreed then that such a long delay was unacceptable but said it was a matter for the Cardiff Local Health Board and Cardiff and Vale NHS Trust.

In a meeting with the trust in August, she said she made breast care services the first item on the agenda for discussion.

 Jon Owen Jones MP
Mr Jones said the response offered nothing to Ms Debono
The trust has instigated a five-point action plan to address the issues raised, including short-term measures and a longer-term strategy.

On Friday, Mr Jones said he had taken a few days to study Ms Hutt's response in detail and had held a meeting with the local health board.

"I've already said [the response] is inadequate and complacent," he told BBC Radio Wales.

I will remain in close contact with those responsible until satisfied that a speedy resolution has been achieved
Health Minister Jane Hutt

"It accepts no responsibility for the problem or the solution. It offers nothing to Theresa Debono and hundreds like her.

'Not acceptable'

"It apportions blame to GPs and to trusts but takes no personal blame."

Mr Jones believed the response did not explain how the situation had occurred or persisted for so long.

"The problem is at least 10 months old. Four years ago, 90% of all women in Wales were seen within guidelines, i.e. within 10 days.

"How can it be possible that the situation has deteriorated so much in four years during which time there has been an unprecedented increase in NHS funding?"

Ms Debono has already borrowed money to pay to see a consultant, and was now considering borrowing more for a private mammogram, he said.

Hugh Ross, chief executive of the NHS trust, said on Tuesday he shared Ms Hutt's deep concern about the length of time that patients were waiting to be seen, but while the trust received about 80 referrals each week, it could deal with only 60.

After Mr Jones' new comments, Ms Hutt said in a statement: "I made my statement on the situation (earlier in the week) and am now expecting prompt action from the trust. I remain deeply concerned at the case which has been highlighted."

Ms Hutt said the trust and the health board were responsible for providing services, but as the minister and the AM for the Vale of Glamorgan, she was "extremely concerned about this aspect of breast care service in Cardiff and Vale over recent weeks."

Ms Hutt said: "It is not acceptable to me, as health minister, that such variation in service should have arisen and I will remain in close contact with those responsible until satisfied that a speedy resolution has been achieved."




SEE ALSO:
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