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Leader of Welsh Conservatives demands apology for 15,000 people waiting two years for procedure on Welsh NHS

Andrew RT Davies has asked for the Minister for Rural Affairs to apologise for the 15,000 people waiting two years or more for a procedure on the Welsh NHS. He put the question to the minister as she was deputising for Mark Drakeford MS at Forst Minister’s Question time. 

Lesley Griffiths MS replied: “Well, of course, we don’t want anybody to be waiting for lengthy periods of time. If you’re in pain and you need surgery, then obviously we want to get that surgery and those procedures as quickly as possible. You’ll be aware the Minister for Health and Social Services has put significant funding into the NHS, and it includes the north Wales health board, Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board, to try and bring those numbers down and to sort out the backlog as well. But, a lot of that funding will unfortunately go on the energy crisis now.”

Andrew R.T. Davies MS said: “Well, Minister, ‘sorry’ seems to be the hardest word when it comes to talking to the 15,000 people who are waiting two years or more within the NHS in north Wales.”

He offered the minister a second chance to say sorry. He said: “ 25 per cent of the population in north Wales are on an NHS waiting list—25 per cent. Will you say ‘sorry’ to that 25 per cent?”

Lesley Griffiths MS insisted that it was not a matter of saying ‘sorry’. She said: “ It’s about making sure that we are able to help the health board deliver the procedures and the surgery that are required as soon as possible. “We are aware of how difficult it is for people who are waiting for a long time for treatment. We do continue to make progress to reduce the longest waits, and the number of patient pathways waiting more than two years did fall—I think it was the fourth consecutive month they’ve fallen. So, we are seeing some progress. It’s now 14 per cent lower than the peak that we had in March this year.”

Andrew R.T. Davies MS continued to persue the apology route saying: “Minister, on two occasions I offered you the opportunity to apologise to the citizens of north Wales, for which you have direct ministerial responsibility. What tangible efforts are you making to bring us in line with the other parts of the United Kingdom, that will see wiping out the two-year wait, progress on the 12-month wait, and, above all, the decline in the overall number of patients waiting within the NHS in Wales?”

Lesley Griffiths MS said: “Of course we’re sorry that people have to wait for a lengthy time. You paint this picture of the rest of the UK that just isn’t true. I mentioned the significant funding that the Minister for Health and Social Services put in, I mentioned how we’ve seen a drop again for the fourth consecutive month, and you’re just dismissing all of that. What we should be doing is praising the NHS for the fantastic work that they do. You know the challenging times the NHS have been in. Our staff have worked relentlessly during the COVID-19 pandemic. We’re now asking them to do more again to try and look at the backlog. As I’ve mentioned, the Minister for Health and Social Services is supporting Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board specifically with targeted intervention.”

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