Wales NHS sets MMR jabs, 999 calls and 'dignity' as priorities

Image caption The framework outlines the priorities for the NHS in Wales

Immediate action is needed by the NHS in Wales to increase vaccinations of young children, reduce A&E waiting times and to get to grips with bed blocking, health chiefs say.

The NHS Delivery Framework priorities for 2013/14 also include spot-checks relating to patients' dignity of care.

NHS Wales chief executive David Sissling said the focus was "quality, patient experience and outcome".

Opposition parties say cancer care and doctor training also needs to improve.

The priorities outlined are:

  • spot checks and patient surveys to see if dignity in care is improving
  • ensuring improvements in ambulance response times, patient waiting times in A&E departments and access to planned care
  • vaccinating 95% of children up to the age of four with scheduled jabs such as the triple vaccine MMR
  • closer working with social care agencies to reduce emergency hospital admissions

Mr Sissling said: "It will ensure the NHS can drive up standards in key areas. During the course of the next few months we will be looking to further improve our targets.

"We will be working with our staff, stakeholders and service users to ensure we are monitoring and measuring the things which will really make a difference."

In a move to ease pressure on hospitals, Health Minister Mark Drakeford last month said patients should leave as soon as they can and not continue to occupy a ward bed.

Measles crackdown

This month a review of the ambulance service ordered by former Health Minister Lesley Griffiths recommended a revamp of its performance targets and said crews should concentrate on emergency patients with routine transfers to hospitals becoming the responsibility of local health boards.

The focus on vaccination rates comes as Wales is tackling its largest measles outbreak in a generation, with 1,136 suspected cases since November 2012.

Image caption MMR drop-in clinics finish this weekend, but jabs will be available from GPs

More than 60,000 unscheduled MMR vaccinations have been given aimed at reducing the length and severity of the outbreak but Public Health Wales says another 33,000 youngsters between 10 and 18 still have not had the jab.

A spokesman said: "Our MMR uptake in small children has been rising over the last few years but we are still short of hitting the 95% target for both doses of MMR that would eradicate measles in Wales."

The issue of dignity in care follows concerns highlighted by the public inquiry into Stafford Hospital which uncovered neglect and abuse of patients leading to hundreds of unnecessary deaths between 2005 and 2008.

It was also raised in December by Cynon Valley MP Ann Clwyd who complained that her husband Owen Roberts had died "like a battery hen" at the University Hospital of Wales in Cardiff.

She is now advising Prime Minister David Cameron on how NHS hospitals handle complaints.

Opposition parties in Wales have responded to the publication of the priorities by highlighting other issues they want tackled.

Welsh Conservatives health spokesman Darren Millar said: "There is nothing here to suggest the cancer delivery plan will be dusted off and implemented, no guarantees on abysmal cancer waiting times, and nothing to address the unfair divide in access to cancer drugs."

Plaid Cymru health spokesperson Elin Jones said there was a need to "train more doctors in Wales, and ensure that more doctors that train in Wales stay in Wales to work".

Welsh Lib Dem leader Kirsty Williams said the priorities were "hardly surprising" and the party would use them to ensure "the Welsh Labour government learns from its mistakes and starts to actually improve our health service, rather than sitting back and continuing to allow our NHS to deteriorate".

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