Penarth Assembly Member Vaughan Gething (Labour Cardiff South and Penarth) is totally in charge of Health in Wales

Penarth Assembly Member Vaughan Gething (Labour Cardiff South and Penarth) is totally in charge of the NHS in Wales

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Gething’s unnoticed claim was originally made in the BBC “Wales Report” programme on May 25th.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 University Hospital of Wales Cardiff

The University Hospital of Wales Cardiff

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. 

Penarth's nearest hospital - the University Hospital Llandough

Penarth’s nearest hospital – the University Hospital Llandough

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 casualty-treatment centre - the Barry Minor Injuries Unit

Penarth’s nearest casualty-treatment centre – the Barry Minor Injuries Unit

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”.

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  1. AK says:

    The starting point is actually being able to get to see a GP. If you can hang on on the phone at 8am, and then drop everything for a ‘same day’ appointment then you are fine. If you actually have to work for a living, then it is difficult or impossible.

    Our family has in recent years had more than our money’s worth out of the NHS, and cannot fault the treatment received – but the administration to get there is complex and bureaucratic.

  2. Paul says:

    We have emergency cover 24/7. Isn’t that enough?

    We do not have routine 7 day working in the NHS, or few other businesses, but do we really want it and are we prepared to pay for it? If all those departments which close routinely are opened up 24/7 then are you prepared to go into hospital for appointments at 3pm on a Saturday afternoon or at 8am on a Sunday? Are the buses etc going to stop this weekend and night service and run accordingly? What about events, like a Wales match? Why hold it at a weekend, lots of people will be working so what about holding it on a Tuesday instead? What about schools, when should they be open if weekends are abolished? Forget extra money for working unsocial hours, there’s no such thing. Forget about family weekends together, you might find your “weekend” doesn’t match with your partners or your children.

    Changing our working culture to 24/7 will completely change this country, and not for the better either. Yes, the current debate is around the NHS but the knock on effect to everyone is massive. If we truly want a 24/7 society then fine but

    • whatsoccurin says:

      Good Comments and I am sure many readers are unsure how much occurs at week-ends-a while ago I attended routine eye screening at Barry Hospital and joked with the technician “you will soon be doing this at week-ends”-he replied “we do-it is only the Doctors who are not around on Saturdays and Sundays”. Similarly-week-end and evening G.P surgeries, a little optimistic-most close at lunchtime!

  3. Colin Davies says:

    Assembly Health Minister being completely out of touch with reality.. well there’s a surprise, pretty much every portfolio he’s held he hasn’t had a clue!!

  4. Frank Evans says:

    Does 7 day figure relate to current ambulance wait times?

    • Dave Horrocks says:

      We did some programming work for a major NHS trust in England a few years ago and there was a line in the code which added 4 minutes to the telephone call received time for the ambulance. We asked what it was in there for, and were told it was to allow for the time for the telephone call to get through their internal system.

      “The Department of Health requires that the ambulance service reaches 75% of category A (life-threatening) calls within eight minutes.”

      • Frank Evans says:

        Those old mechanical telephone exchanges were very slow klank Creek click putting you through now madam….
        Anytime KPIs are used people will ways to cheat.

  5. Louise C says:

    The problem in England is the political push to have a ‘7 day’ NHS on the ‘5 day’ budget and ‘5 day’ staffing levels. The Welsh NHS isn’t perfect but at least we won’t have these strikes. I hope some English doctors move to Wales, rather then the antipodes, to escape Jeremy Hunt.

  6. Ann Other says:

    The man is a complete fool and certainly takes us for fools.

    • Woowoo Wizzywoo says:

      Is that it – or do you have a point? Can you explain why and how you make this claim, or is it just personal? Reasons, please, instead of insults. Rudeness is a discourtesy to everyone.

  7. Martin Coffee says:

    Let me see. I’ve had a weekend appointment for a scan… twice. My consultant called in to see me on a Sunday when I was admitted. That sounds like 24 hours to me.

    Why do routine appointments need to be outwith a weekday?

    I’m not surprised that Accident and Emergency departments are busy after a weekend. No one wants to visit at the weekends if it will wait do they?

    I note that even during a crisis the English parliament never sits at the weekend. These political people would soon change their tune if they had to work at weekends and understood how disruptive it is to family life. Why do parliaments have school length summer holidays? I’ve never understood why they need such long holidays.

    The NHS is already available 24 hours every day for a genuine emergency. This is all about English political people trying to get brownie points.

  8. 249ers says:

    Out of hours doctors are available at Barry Hospital and CRI. When you ring your own doctors number you are put through to this service. patients are triaged by phone and then if necessary called into see doctor. You are given a time to arrive so little or no waiting once you are there Prescriptions are also dispensed on site at CRI I’m not sure if they are at Barry. Ive used both services and can’t fault them as they offer alternative to an A and E visit.

  9. Lindsay says:

    A seven days a week NHS in which every NHS facility is available every single day is a utopian fantasy. It needn’t be, we could all dig pretty deep but that isn’t going to happen and doesn’t need to happen. We have a truly seven days a week emergency care service. If you suffer an accident, or develop an emergency medical condition, you will be treated whatever day of the week it might happen. We are not having strikes by junior doctors (any doctor below the rank of consultant) in Wales because the NHS in Wales is devolved. For the time being at least, the Welsh government, like the Scottish government, intends to stick with the junior doctors contract already in force. In England, Jeremy Hunt continues to maintain his intransigent line and to cherry pick statistics to “prove” the falacious belief that hospitals are an unsafe place at weekends.

    The Prime Minister’s provocative decision to leave him in post when she constructed her cabinet was a missed opportunity to bring a new perspective to the discussions. Hunt’s falsification of the facts needs to be subject to the same evidence based scrutiny that medical decisions are and always have been. They are hardly “militant junior doctors” – there hasn’t been a strike by doctors, before the current dispute, for more than 40 years.

    The truth is that if doctors’ time is spread more thinly in a “cost neutral” way, every day will be a potentially dangerous day. There are no tachometers on hospital wards.

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