As NHS England prepares for a series of strikes by militant junior doctors – demanding more money for working weekends and operating a “7-day NHS”, the Welsh Government’s Health Minister, Vaughan Gething (Labour AM for Cardiff South and Penarth), has controversially claimed that Wales already has a 7-day NHS .
Gething’s unnoticed claim was originally made in the BBC “Wales Report” programme on May 25th. He was asked if he would like a 7-Day Health Service in Wales. In reply Gething asserted that Wales already had such service.
He said “We already have a 7-day service. People still go in and out of health care – uh – to receive treatment on the weekends as well.”
The assertion that “Wales already has a 7-day service” may come a surprise to local NHS patients who – despite Gething’s claims – find that scores of local hospital departments, surgeries and medical units throughout the Cardiff and Vale University Heath Board area are – in fact – routinely closed at weekends and Bank Holidays.
Over the August Bank Holiday weekend a number of local hospital departments were – as usual – shut including several departments at the nearest three nearest hospitals to Penarth. Outpatients are also routinely advised to avoid coming in on the Tuesday after a bank holiday. Staff say there is always a rush of people after a holiday weekend who have been able to receive treatment for three days.
A Freedom of Information request was invoked to check Gething’s claim. It asked for a list of the departments which are normally closed at weekends
The Cardiff and Vale University Health Board however replied saying it that, although it has the information about all the hospital departments and units which are shut at weekends and Bank Holidays, it “unfortunately” doesn’t have a single centralised list of them all – and therefore can’t supply the information.
From already published information however it is clear that many local hospital facilities are closed at weekends.
Penarth’s nearest emergency treatment unit – the Minor Injuries Unit at Barry Hospital which treats cuts, sprains, broken bones, bites and stings, head injuries and eye problems, is always closed on Saturdays and Sundays – arguably at just the time of the week when it is most needed and when the Emergency Unit at the Heath UHB Hospital in Cardiff is under the most pressure.
Several departments in Llandough Hospital and in the University Hospital at the Heath in Cardiff are routinely closed at weekends – and in fact start packing up early on Friday afternoons.
The Cardiff and Vale Health Board says that it should be remembered that “even though a department may be closed the majority will either have skeleton staff working or have an on call service. This would cover by way of an example pharmacy, therapies, housekeeping, maintenance, management , medical records and chaplaincy.”
In his BBC interview Vaughan Gething had said “The challenge always is how to provide a better service with the resources that we have and our key resource is the people. The challenge in England has been how to run a 7-Day service with the same numbers of staff”
Referring to the dispute in NHS England Gething said “we will have choices to make here in Wales as to how we want to run our own services and the choices to attract and retain staff here in Wales as well – not just doctors, not just nurses but the whole range of health-care professions”.