FOLLOWING the announcement of the Welsh Government’s plan to cut NHS waiting times in Wales, concerns have been raised over staffing and that this is much of the same.

Health minister Eluned Morgan announced the plan – which will see a further £60 million invested in the Welsh NHS over the next four years in a bid to combat issues with waiting times and “transform planned care” – on Monday night

It came after, last week, Darren Hughes, director of the Welsh NHS Confederation, admitted the Welsh health service was “a long way” from meeting demand, with almost 700,000 people currently waiting for treatment according to the latest NHS Wales performance figures.

Ms Morgan said the plan aims to ensure no one will be waiting more than a year for treatment in most specialties by Spring 2025.

It will aim to ease the demands on hospital staff, with people only going to hospital when they need care, advice or services which cannot be delivered either at home or in the community.

This will include having more appointments and follow-up appointments virtually, and making diagnostic tests more widely available in the community.

Following the announcement, Welsh Conservative and shadow minister for health Russell George said that more needed to be done to address issues which predate the coronavirus pandemic.

“Twenty-three years of Labour mismanagement has seen the NHS breaking all the wrong records in Wales,” he said. “Only last week we saw the worst A&E waits and longest treatment list in NHS Wales history. Much more needs to be done.

“Labour’s mismanagement of our NHS predates the Covid-19 with waiting times doubling in the year before the pandemic.  

“For years, Welsh Conservatives have been calling on the Labour Government in Cardiff Bay to tackle the crisis in our NHS. We need to be assured that this plan is more than a just sticking plaster to cover deep rooted issues.

“We must also be assured that this extra funding will go towards addressing long standing gaps in the NHS workforce as this can’t be just about equipment, it’s about the people.

“This is a matter of life and death for people in Wales. It’s about time Labour ministers started treating it as such.”

Plaid Cymru’s spokesperson for health and care, Rhun ap Iorwerth, raised concerns about the steps being taken to address “the severely depleted” health and social care workforce.

“What the NHS in Wales needs is a plan that looks at every aspect of the patient journey through the health and care sector,” he said. “This has to start with increased focus on prevention, to reduce the number of people who are seeking health care in the first place, and must include plans to quickly support those patients who need care packages after hospital treatment, to free up beds in hospitals.

“It’s also not clear if government are taking any additional steps to address the severely depleted workforce across health and care.

“While the increased support for those on waiting lists is to be welcomed, as is the promise of a new focus on diagnostics, what the NHS in Wales desperately needs and deserves is a comprehensive plan that addresses the whole patient journey, including the workforce required to deliver the service.

“The fact that new targets are to be set is welcome, but we’ll have to assess the level of ambition and firmly hold the Government to account to ensure targets are met.”

Welsh Liberal Democrat leader Jane Dodds said: “We welcome the clarity the plan announced by the health minister today provides to patients and NHS staff about the treatment they can expect after Covid-19 delays.

“However, we have heard many similar promises to the one announced today throughout Labour’s 22 years in power in Wales. Patients and staff need certainty that this plan will be delivered and that decision-makers will be held to account if these targets are not met.

“It also remains a significant concern of ours that Wales could lose 80 out of this year’s 160 GP trainees due to the Conservatives' archaic immigration policies which could have a significant impact on the plans announced today.”