NHS Wales chief says no trade-off over waiting times

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Media captionDr Andrew Goodall said there had been significant improvements in waiting times

NHS Wales' boss has rejected the idea that planned surgery waiting times could be allowed to grow as a "trade off" for quicker A&E and cancer care.

Dr Andrew Goodall said the health service in Wales would instead look to keep making "steady and sustained improvements across the board".

Last week, his counterpart in England suggested patients could face longer waits for knee and hip operations.

But Dr Goodall wants improved waiting times over a range of services.

In recent years, the NHS in Wales has been heavily criticised over its waiting times performance.

Research by BBC Wales shows Welsh waiting times continue to lag behind England in most key categories for treatment and diagnosis.

But NHS Wales chief executive Dr Goodall said "good progress" had been achieved on reducing waits, including an 80% fall in diagnostic waiting times over the past couple of years.

Meanwhile, in his third annual report, he said NHS Wales was operating in a "culture of steady and sustained improvement", despite pressures.

The report takes a look back at the challenges and improvements over the past year and said there had been a "steady decline" in hospital discharge delays.

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Dr Goodall said the quality of care patients should expect should be "seamless" across Wales.

"It's no secret that the NHS - and this includes NHS Wales - is facing ongoing financial and service pressures.

"Combine this with the good news that more of us are living longer, albeit many with chronic conditions, this shows that we need to fundamentally change the way we do things to meet our needs over the coming years.

"In redesigning the ways in which we deliver better and sustainable services, we must not forget that one size will not fit all when we look, for instance, at how we provide healthcare to very rural areas, and the commitment to provide services in both Welsh and English."

Among improvements, he highlighted the performance of the ambulance service, as well as 150 new staff being recruited to support mental health services for children and young people.

Dr Goodall has also defended the decision of the health secretary not to offer financial bail-outs to four health boards that have overspent significantly.

Last week, BBC Wales revealed Betsi Cadwaladr, Hywel Dda, Abertawe Bro Morgannwg and Cardiff and Vale health boards had built up combined deficits of £146m - almost three times as much as the previous year.

Dr Goodall said health boards had to live within their means given that the Welsh Government had provided "fair and reasonable" funding.

He added there had been "some recovery" in the financial position of overspending health boards recently and he expected "better performance" next year.

He also said health boards should learn from each other in an effort to have a "more consistent range of services and standards across Wales".

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