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Last Updated: Wednesday, 23 February, 2005, 19:05 GMT
Extra 32m to cut health waiting
Health Minister Brian Gibbons in hospital
Dr Gibbons says there has been a strain on NHS services
An extra 32m has been offered to the Welsh NHS by the assembly government in an attempt to cut waiting lists.

Health Minister Brian Gibbons said the money was available to health trusts and boards "who feel they are able to treat more patients, quicker."

Dr Gibbons said accident and emergency departments had "faced huge pressures".

Opposition parties called on the minister to present a plan to tackle the 'crisis' within accident and emergency departments quickly.

Dr Gibbons said the money would help meet the assembly government target that all patients have an appointment within 12 months by March 2006.

Hospital staff have described the problems they have suffered, and last year the British Medical Association said NHS staff were "weeping with despair" over the number waiting for treatment.

Those targets are there to ensure that patients get the service they rightly expect
Brian Gibbons
Last month First Minister Rhodri Morgan visited the A&E department at the University Hospital of Wales, Cardiff, after staff claimed it was in crisis.

Dr Gibbons, who announced the new money in the assembly chamber, said it would be available this year and next.

He said: "A&E departments across Wales have faced huge pressures over recent months which has put a strain on services throughout the NHS.

"I am aware that pressure has also come from the Welsh Assembly Government as we continue to push trusts to meet our waiting times targets.

"But those targets are there to ensure that patients get the service they rightly expect.

The Welsh health budget for 2005/06 is 4.9bn.

'Wasting tax payers' money'

Liberal Democrat health spokeswoman Kirsty Williams called on Dr Gibbons to present a plan within two weeks on how to tackle what she called a crisis in Welsh A&Es.

Other opposition parties said they agreed, but Plaid Cymru questioned why the Lib Dems set a deadline of 9 March.

Plaid health spokesman Rhodri Glyn Thomas said that would be just before the Lib Dems' spring conference.

Mr Thomas said: "Any extra money to the NHS is welcome, but it is the way that money is spent which is crucial to tackling long waiting times and lists."

Jonathan Morgan, Tory health spokesman in the assembly, said: "Both the Auditor General for Wales, and the Audit Commission have accused the Welsh Assembly Government of wasting tax payers' money in the way they have tried to deal with waiting lists.

"While we would do all we can to reduce waiting lists and long waits, the Labour assembly government needs to match this with a change of direction in policy."


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