Wales politics

NHS 'under pressure' but 'resilient', says Drakeford

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Media captionMark Drakeford says the ambulance service 'has to improve'

The Welsh NHS is a "system under pressure" and the ambulance service performance "not where we would like it to be", the health minister has said.

But Mark Drakeford said the NHS was showing "remarkable resilience" and meeting needs on a "huge scale".

On Wednesday, a BMA report called for an independent investigation into the NHS in Wales.

On the same day a woman died in an ambulance in a queue of emergency vehicles outside a Swansea hospital.

Sonia Powell had been outside A&E at Morriston Hospital in Swansea for at least an hour when she died, her family claim.

'Big picture'

Calling for the inquiry, BMA Wales Chairman Dr Phil Banfield had warned the NHS in Wales was facing "imminent meltdown" unless action was taken swiftly.

British Medical Association Wales also wants Healthcare Inspectorate Wales to become independent of the NHS and the Welsh government.

Mr Drakeford told the assembly's health committee that he had not seen the BMA report yet but that he would be reading it over the weekend before it is debated by AMs next week.

"The NHS in Wales, as in all other parts of the United Kingdom, is a system under pressure," he said.

"Demand goes up - our ability to meet the demand through matching that demand with resource is compromised by cuts in budget that we face."

But he insisted the "big picture story" was of a "remarkably resilient service that provides for the needs of the Welsh people in planned and unplanned care on a huge scale".

'Encouraging signs'

Mr Drakeford described the ambulance service as "one of those places where performance has not been what we would want it to be".

"Performance in the ambulance service does have to improve," he said.

"They've got more money this year, and they knew it from the beginning of the year, they have a recruitment plan that will lead to 100 new people being recruited into the service, we have major investment in vehicles, so that they have the best equipment that they need to do the job.

"They have to be able to demonstrate that they use all those contributions that are being made to turn that into performance on the ground.

"Performance is not where we would like it to be but there are some modestly encouraging signs of improvement."

In June, Mr Drakeford told the assembly he expected the ambulance service's performance to improve "month-on-month".

Conservative AM Paul Davies called it "extraordinary" that Mr Drakeford "has not taken even a few minutes in the past 24 hours to thumb through a 16-page report from doctors warning of 'imminent meltdown' in the Welsh NHS".

"There should be an urgency in the Welsh government to hear any concerns from frontline clinicians, instead of this lazy attitude towards the genuine warnings of NHS doctors," he said.

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