Welsh Labour’s lacklustre response to improving mental healthcare in Wales.

The Welsh Labour Party once again displayed their poverty of ambition for Wales.

A debate was held in the Welsh Assembly this month on Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) in Wales. The Welsh Liberal Democrats, following a unanimous decision by members at the Party’s Spring Conference, tabled the debate calling on the Welsh Government to take a number of key steps including:

• investigating waiting times between a child or young person’s first assessment with CAMHS and their subsequent service referral;
• routinely publishing readmission statistics;
• consistent and accurate reporting of inappropriate placements on adult mental health wards;
• considering the introduction of mental health education within the school curriculum; and
• introducing a national framework to ensure continuity of treatment in the transition between CAMHS and Adult Mental Health Services.

The Welsh Labour Government voted against all of these suggestions.

One in ten children and adolescents in Wales will experience a mental health issue, and waiting lists are too long, there is a lack of investment and focus on early intervention, too many young people are still inappropriately placed on adult mental health wards, safety checks are not common practice and many young people get lost in the transition between CAMHS and Adult Mental Health Services.

Nearly a decade ago the Children’s Commissioner warned that CAMHS provision was in ‘crisis across Wales’, and we’re still hearing those same concerns echoed by child health experts in 2014.

Figures compiled by the Welsh Liberal Democrats show that the number of vulnerable young people in Wales waiting more than 14 weeks to access child and adolescent psychiatric services has almost quadrupled, from 199 in January 2013 to 736 in January 2014.

Wales made a good start in being the first country in the UK to have a national strategy on CAMHS with the launch of ‘Everybody’s Business’ in 2001. There are examples of excellent practice across Wales, yet sadly despite action plans, frameworks and even the Mental Health (Wales) Measure, there remain significant concerns that can no longer be ignored.

Welsh Labour, when they voted against making improvements to mental health services in Wales, displayed their lack of ambition, displayed a willingness to play politics with people’s health, and shows how Labour continues to let the people of Wales down.

Welsh Government lax on NHS

The Welsh Labour Government is failing our ambulance service and Accident and Emergency services across Wales. The Government’s ambulance response times target has been missed for the eleventh successive month – a time frame in which most people would expect to see an improvement.

“The response time target is for 65% of life-threatening calls to receive an ambulance within eight minutes. In April this target was missed, as only 57.2% of calls were responded to within this time. The Ambulance Trust also has an internal target for 52% of life-threatening calls to arrive within 4 minutes, yet in April only 25.9% of ambulances arrived within this time.”

Evidence has shown that where ambulances do not meet their response targets the number of deaths as a result of cardiopulmonary arrests increases. Almost 33% in a Scottish survey. This also has implications for other ambulance call outs where failure to meet response times could leave the patient partially disabled.

These figures show Wales has by far the worst urgent response times in the UK.

Following the Ambulance Review, the Health Minister, Mark Drakeford, stated that the eight minute target is to remain. We need this target in order to track how our ambulance service is performing compared to the rest of the UK.

Unfortunately it’s not just the ambulance service that isn’t being given proper support by the Welsh Government. Our Accident and Emergency services are also suffering.

The Welsh Government’s target is for 95% of patients to spend less than four hours in A&E. Figures shown that this target was also missed as 84.3% and 85.9% of patients spent less than 4 hours from arrival until admission, transfer or discharge in March and April 2013, respectively.

The target of  99% for patients not to spend longer than 8 hours in A&E was also missed.

These figures show a continuing decline in NHS services in Wales, a buck that can’t be passed to the Coalition Government. Whilst Joe Bloggs may not understand the intricacies of devolution, our Welsh Government ministers need to accept that responsibility for the NHS in Wales lies at Cardiff Bay.

After thirteen years of a Labour Government in the Assembly, we have seen our NHS fall further behind compared to the rest of the UK; cancer targets that have not been met for the last five years; A&E targets that have never been met and the worst ambulance response times in the UK.

This is not only an indication of poor patient care in the Welsh system, but also suggests the difficulty and strain placed on NHS staff when they are not being given the proper resources to care for patients in Wales.

This is just part of Labour’s legacy in Wales.