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Last Updated: Tuesday, 1 February, 2005, 06:46 GMT
Minister's pledge on NHS waiting
Dr Brian Gibbons
Dr Gibbons was a GP before being elected to the assembly
Welsh Health Minister Brian Gibbons will devote one day a week to cutting NHS waiting times in Wales, he has told a group of Welsh Labour MPs.

His promise was made during a meeting in Westminster on Monday night.

Dr Gibbons' predecessor Jane Hutt, whom he replaced last month, came under criticism over waiting lists from Labour MPs and opposition AMs.

Clwyd West MP Gareth Thomas told Dr Gibbons that failure to cut waiting times could undermine devolution.

In November, the British Medical Association said NHS staff were "weeping with despair" as figures showed 311,000 people were waiting for treatment in Wales.

In the same month lists in England were at their lowest for 17 years, with 856,600 people waiting for treatment.

Both Dr Gibbons and the MPs present at the meeting certainly agreed there had been huge advances in the NHS in Wales.
Wayne David MP

Speaking to the BBC News website, Dr Gibbons said Monday's meeting, in which he was subjected to 30 minutes of direct questioning, had been "fairly constructive".

"I don't want to discuss what went on in a private meeting - it was a confidential meeting, but waiting times are a priority for me," he said.

'Good exchange of views'

Caerphilly MP Wayne David said the meeting had been "a good exchange of views".

"Both Dr Gibbons and the MPs present certainly agreed there had been huge advances in the NHS in Wales, but also agreed much work needs to be done quickly as far as waiting times were concerned," he said.

One unidentified MP is reported to have said said that Dr Gibbons was "less in denial" about the state of the Welsh NHS than his predecessor.

Last week, figures revealed that hospital waiting times in Wales fell in the final three months of last year - which prompted Dr Gibbons to say the gap with England was closing.

The Welsh Conservatives accused Dr Gibbons of "hollow tokenism"and said he needed to focus all his attention on tackling waiting times.

Their health spokesman, Jonathan Morgan, said: "It rather begs the question what Brian Gibbons will be doing for the other six days of the week.

"We need a serious commitment from Dr Gibbons to help those on long waiting lists by offering them treatment either in England where the waits are shorter or in the private sector."


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