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Last Updated: Thursday, 12 May, 2005, 11:34 GMT 12:34 UK
Gibbons hits back at NHS critics
Dr Brian Gibbons
Dr Brian Gibbons said waiting times had fallen
The Welsh health minister has hit back following criticism over the Welsh Assembly Government's handling of hospital waiting lists.

On Thursday, an influential all-party group of assembly members branded waiting times "unacceptable".

It said high demand, inefficiencies and bed-blocking meant people were waiting "too long" in some areas.

But Health Minister Brian Gibbons said the assembly government was already dealing with the report's findings.

He said the report was a snapshot of what was happening six to nine months ago, not what was happening now.

I am concerned that whilst some innovations have been successful in improving performance, there has been failure to roll these out throughout Wales
Janet Davies AM

"Since then, waiting figures have come down between 90-99% depending on which category you look at, so substantial progress has been made," he said.

"I think you will find when we make our formal response that, [with] virtually all of those recommendations, we are already actioning them and making progress in the direction the audit committee wants us to go."

A spokeswoman for the Welsh Assembly Government said that there were now only 31 people waiting more than 18 months for outpatients appointments and just over 108 waiting more than a year for an inpatient appointment.

On Thursday, Dr Gibbons outlined new standards designed to cut regional variations in health care.

The audit committee report follows research published by the Auditor General in January.

A nurse (generic)
Innovations in care have not rolled out, said the AMs' report

Both reports called for a long-term strategy to overcome the problems in Wales' NHS.

The AMs on the audit committee recommended beds and resources should be better used, with extra money only going to organisations which achieve this.

They also want to continue using one-off funding schemes to cut waiting times, but with specific targets attached.

The report said: "Long waiting times give rise to widespread concern, impose human costs on patients and their carers, and can increase the ultimate cost of treatment.

"The evidence before us leaves us in no doubt that the waiting time position in Wales has been and remains unacceptable."

Committee Chair Janet Davies called for "strong leadership" from the assembly government.

She said: "I am concerned that whilst some innovations have been successful in improving performance, there has been failure to roll these out throughout Wales.

"I expect the assembly government to give the attention needed to providing strong leadership on the basis of a clear and coherent strategy to resolve long waiting times and achieve good treatment for Welsh patients."

"We have had to make 13 recommendations, but really they all work together to show very clearly that you do need an overall strategy and that's what has been lacking in the health service over recent years."

Plaid Cymru said the report was the latest in "a series of damning reports about the NHS in Wales" and the Liberal Democrats said "a clear strategy" was needed for the NHS in Wales.

The Welsh Assembly Government has six weeks to respond fully to the committee's report.

Minister tours 'pressured' A&Es
16 Feb 05 |  South East Wales

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