Wales politics

Emergency NHS care inquiry call rejected by Drakeford

Image caption Another report on the Welsh NHS is not what is needed, says Mark Drakeford

The first minister has rejected a call by Plaid Cymru for an inquiry into emergency healthcare, starting with the NHS in north Wales.

It comes after the north Wales coroner said he was "extremely concerned" about a risk to patients' lives.

Plaid leader Adam Price called for a review after it emerged 78% of accident and emergency patients across Wales were seen within four hours last month.

That is below a target of 95% and a worse performance than December 2017.

At question time in the Senedd on Tuesday, Mr Drakeford said that "on the whole" the NHS had performed better this winter than last year.

In a report published last week, North Wales Coroner John Gittins said he had highlighted problems, including delayed ambulances and slow hospital admissions, on "numerous occasions".

It followed an inquest into the death of 93-year-old Gladys Williams who died after a fall at a care home.

She was not handed over to staff at Wrexham Maelor Hospital until 12 hours after an ambulance was first called.

Although the delay could not be said to have contributed to her death, the coroner said he thought there was a risk of more deaths if problems were not addressed.

It is one of four such reports Mr Gittins sent to the NHS in a year.

Despite assurances of improvements, the coroner said problems "appear to be continuing... and I continue to believe and be extremely concerned that patients' lives are being placed at risk as a result".

Image caption The first minister said the system had "checks and balances"

Mr Price said an independent review was needed "as a matter of urgency", starting with Betsi Cadwaladr Health Board which is responsible for the Wrexham Maelor.

"Or as happened in the case of Tawel Fan do we have to wait for more pain and unnecessary suffering before you are ready to take responsibility and act?" he said.

Mr Drakeford said performance at Wrexham Maelor was "not acceptable", but "on the whole the performance across Wales this winter has been an improvement on where we were last year".

The first minister said there were "checks and balances" in the system. Reports from coroners and inspectors "give us the information that we need".

He added: "I absolutely do not agree that what we need is another report into the Welsh NHS.

"We know the things that need to be done, we know where the pinch points are to be found. The job is to get on and ensure that the general improvements are shared elsewhere and everywhere.

"We don't need months and months taken up in another inquiry of the sort the member suggests to give us that information."

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