Wednesday, 5 January 2011

North Wales heart patients "banned" from top Liverpool hospital

The news that the NHS Liverpool Heart and Chest Hospital will no longer accept North Wales patients due to a "shortfall in funding from Wales" is extremely worrying news -- especially as so many residents from Ynys Môn and elsewhere in North Wales rely on the excellent treatment available there (including the author of the excellent Anglesey Telegraph blog). Until now the LHCH has apparently been carrying out up to 70 pre-planned elective operations on Welsh patients and dealing with up to 50 more urgent cases each month. According to the Daily Post some Welsh patients waiting for heart bypass and cardiac valve surgery have now been told that they have been "bumped off the waiting lists". Dr Eamonn Jessop, vice-chairman of the North Wales Local Medical Committee, says the situation is a "unmitigated disaster" which will "put patients lives at risk". Presumably North Wales patients will now need to travel down to hospitals in South Wales in order to receive such treatment. Not only is this a considerable journey for people who are seriously unwell, it is also counter to the long standing geographic and human links between North Wales and North West England.

Personally I am amazed that this extremely serious situation has been allowed to come this far without being addressed sooner -- its difficult to imagine that a similar situation would have been allowed to arise in South Wales for example.

However this episode unfortunately provides yet further evidence that there are serious problems with with Welsh NHS funding -- particularly in North Wales. In November we learned that the Betsi Cadawaladr University Health Board planned to possibly cut maternity services in Ysbyty Gwynedd, Glan Clwyd and Werxham Maelor to provide midwife-led units. Speaking about these proposals the same Dr Jessup told BBC Radio Wales, "If we say there are 10 women in Glan Clwyd that have to have caesareans performed in 15 minutes, they cannot have that done, and that will be five to 10 babies who will die ... I'm sorry to put it that bluntly, but I really cannot see any way around that, and it will undoubtedly cause perinatal death, I'm afraid". These plans are now being reviewed I understand, but remarkably North Wales residents campaigning to preserve the Special Care Baby Units in Wrexam, Conwy and Wrexham were earlier dubbed "mischief makers" by WAG Health Minister, Edwina Hart, who further suggested that those concerned should take their children to London's Great Ormond Street Hospital "to get the best treatment". Not very reassuring.

What is the cause of these budgetary problems? Simply put the Labour-Plaid coalition in WAG have already announced that the Welsh NHS budget will be cut by £435 million this year, and by a further £885 million over the next three years. Even allowing for waste within the service these levels of cuts will almost certainly have consequences as we are already discovering in North Wales. The Welsh Conservatives' alternative proposals of ring-fencing health spending in Wales have been criticised for engendering deeper cuts in other government departments -- however my own personal opinion is that politics in this age of austerity is all about setting priorities. We need to accept that not all government spending is equal and that some services -- especially health services -- are so important to all of us that they deserve greater protection.

If you are an Ynys Môn resident who has been affected by any of these issues, please do get in touch through the contact me section above.

33 comments:

Photon said...

Ringfencing is all very well, but the fact is, too many politicians spend too much time using the NHS as a vote-grabbing instrument.

If politicians really want to improve matters, they ought to get a proper, firm grip on the management of the NHS. By that, I don't mean paying a load of desk-fliers to hand you the statistics that makes the government of the day look good.

No, it means accepting and removing what is wrong, accepting too many people in the NHS are paid too much (and I include many surgeons and their protectionist professional bodies in this), and that reources are being thrown to the wind thanks to poor control.

Groundhog Day said...

The NHS in Wales is an absolute disgrace and will continue to be so as long as we are governed by inept amateurs in Cardiff Bay. Edwina Hart is a pathetic excuse for a minister having cut her teeth as a bank clerk and her predecessor, Jane Hutt, was no better. I have had personal experience of having to go over the border to obtain what turned out to be life-saving surgery but to obtain it I had to move in with my daughter in England and register as a patient there. The treatment I was being offered at YG or Glan Clwyd was, according to my consultant at the Christie Hospital (private consultation), not suitable but the LHB at that time refused to fund my treatment in Manchester. It turned out that had I waited another couple of weeks then I would not be here to write this now. The service offered in Wales is on a par with a third world country - and I have experienced living in some of those! The amalgamation of the three main trust hospitals in North Wales into the Betsi Cadwaladr Trust has been an unmitigated disaster. Although there is one Ch Exec, the other two who ran the other hospital trusts are still in post on protected salaries - and I'm not talking small figures. The North West Wales Trust which was based at YG was in reasonably good financial health (pardon the pun) but now having been sucked into the mire of the Glan C;wyd and Maelor financial messes we are suffereing the consequences. I have said it before and will continue to say it, the Welsh nation was like sheep to the slaughter when they voted for devolution and soon they will be treading the same path in voting to give these idiots even more powers to make an even bigger mess of running our nation. It's like a bad dream!

the outsider said...

Not even by ring fencing the NHS is the service going to avoid cuts, but as someone who has helped (a little bit) to organise a successful local campaign against closure of Maternity and Emergency departments at an English hospital I know many people feel that the NHS should be the top priority. After all you have to be alive and well to benefit from an education. And to an extent most of us can help educate our youngsters, we are not all capable of being doctors.

kp said...

Of course the situation is awful, quite dreadful. And it needs sorting fast. But it is largely a problem of our own making and, as such, we must shoulder the responsibility for putting matters right once and for all.

The majority of hospitals throughout North Wales are entirely average, average in terms of performance statistics and average in terms of medical skills.

Unfortunately, when it comes to matters medical our very own GP's don't want to burden us with 'average', they want to ensure that we receive the very best. For this very reason we are often referred to the larger and better hospitals scattered throughout the northwest of England, including the excellent teaching hospitals of Manchester and Liverpool.

Over the years such referrals have become more and more commonplace and much earlier in the initial diagnosis phase. This has caused problems for the many LHB's of Wales and letters continue to be despatched on a regular basis to GP's throughout the region encouraging the use of more local services (and Cardiff in the event of anything more serious).

So why is it that our very own GP's don't want to refer us to our own hospitals? The answer is very simple, they know that they do not provide the best healthcare.

And why is that?

Anonymous said...

The problem really is one of devolution in this case. Its a country of 3 million people and the bulk of them live in the south east.

There is no logical way that Wales can deliver specialist health care to all of the country, nor can it deal with "Spikes" in demand.

Complete integration between the Betsi-Cadwaladr Trust and hospitals in the NW of England is the only sensible way of delivering a high quality health service to North Wales.

As the poster above points out Education is secondary to life itself and we can probably tolerate slipping further behind the rest of the OECD in the next four years as we begin to compare ourselves with the educational attainments of Romanian pupils.

kp said...

And why is that?

Healthcare like everything else is a competitive business. Hospitals need to compete for the best talent to provide the best services to secure the maximum amount of funding.

What do we do to proactively try to attract talent to this region? Absolutely nothing! Indeed, we go out of our way to put them off even applying for jobs here in the first place. We tell them they must be interested in learning the language. We tell them their children must be educated through the medium of Welsh.

Basically we just make ourselves and our region plain unattractive to all and anyone but folk like us. And when folk like us offer us healthcare 'like us' we just don't want it for ourselves.

Shame on us!

kp said...

Anon, 10:45..... We have the infrastructure and the administration systems to be able to offer specialist services to the North of England, our own population notwithstanding.

What we need is to be able to attract the right staff, staff that would otherwise go and work in the North of England.

Anonymous said...

KP You KNOW that you are not allowed to say that the drive for universal ability to speak Welsh is a barrier to recruitment to the NHS or a barrier to excellence in public service generally.

You KNOW that it is FORBIDDEN to float the Idea that if you recruit from a tiny pool of people who are fluent in Welsh you might not get a good choice of the best candidates.

And above all you KNOW that suggesting that there should be English Medium Schools available for the children of people who bring essential skills to the NHS and the economy in general is VERY VERY NAUGHTY!!

DON'T DO IT AGAIN!

Anonymous said...

I'd never vote for more powers for the WAG they haven't the intelligence to cope with what they have now let alone anything else. The hospital situation is a disgrace, I'm sure they wanted North Wales patients to travel South for treatment not that long ago but didn't get their wish, maybe this is they're way of insuring that it happens. They should remember that there is a North Wales not just a South and give fair treatment for all

Jac o' the North said...

The most obvious way of reducing demand on the health service in north Wales is to stop encouraging retirees. Nothing racist about this at all. Pure economics and common sense.

All over the Western world we have the problem of an ageing population. So countries raise the retiring age, reduce pensions, etc. But no country would accept large numbers of elderly people from another country (unless they were wealthy and had private health care). It would be economic madness. But we Welsh are expected to do precisely that.

There should, at the very least, be a planning presumption against any more estates of 'retirement bunglalows' of the sort that can be found across north Wales. A closer watch kept on retirement homes to ensure that elderly people in need of care aren't being 'dumped' in Wales.

I have long suspected that there is a political advantage for some in the present situation for it allows kp and others to shout that devolution is rubbish or that Wales can't pay her way.

It would not be 'racist' for the Assembly to take a line on this. If only because the amount of the Welsh budget spent on health could be reduced and the savings spent on educating our children and making life here better for all those living here.

Let's have some rational responses to this. Something that goes beyond 'racism'. Let's hear someone explain the benefits for Wales in allowing in many, many thousands of people who have spent their productive lives in England and will, all too predictably, be a burden on the Welsh budget.

Groundhog Day said...

@anon 14:48

This is where devolution breaks down. There is nothing whatsoever to stop anyone form settling anywhere in the UK, North Wales does not have a monopoly on retired people settling here yet our NHS in Wales is creaking at the seams despite more being spent in the prinicipality per head than in England on health. If you read my post earlier you will note that I actually used my prerogative to move to England in order that I could take advantage of a far superior service across the border. I would not hesitate in doing so again as there is nothing illegal in the way I manipulated the system to my own ends. We will never have a decent health service here as long as we have inept politicians in Cardiff running the system. We cannot attract the best surgeons and they will always be attracted to the centres of excellence such as the Christie and Clatterbidge hospitals across the border. The retired people will always have the right of abode anywhere in the Uk and as long as they have paid their taxes I have no quarrel with that.

Anonymous said...

Jac you're just a RACIST and a lazy one at that. The number of pensioners born in Wales and living in England is HIGHER than the number of pensioners living in Wales and born in England.

What about the other side of the coin. How many Welsh people go to England and spend their working life earning good money over there then return to buy a nice little bungalow by the sea?

There is something in the European human rights act about the right to live freely without interference in any European country. But of course for nasty old xenophobes like you it doesn't apply to British people moving within Britain.

Anonymous said...

Another disgraceful episode in the day to day running of the Welsh Assembly, we pay our taxes, we pay national insurance, yet, at the end of the day if we need specialist treatment, we are in danger of being denied this basic service because of incompetence.

This should nbe investigated, if we pay and we suffer because of lack of communication then heads should roll.

The priorities of the Health Service in Wales, sorry North Wales are in dissaray, something needs to be done before we get to the stage that if any of us turn up in Liverpool for treatement we may be required to hand over our debit or credit card and pay first before we get seen by a specialist.

Jac o' the North said...

"The number of pensioners born in Wales and living in England is HIGHER than the number of pensioners living in Wales and born in England."

You may be right, anonymous (though I wouldn't guarantee it) but the issue here is the relative effect. Let me explain.

Let's say there are half a million pensioners living in England that were born in Wales. In a country of 50 million people that's just one per cent of the population.

Let's say there are 300,000 pensioners in Wales that were born in England. In a country of three million people that's ten per cent of the population.

Which do you think costs more, in relative terms, the half million Welsh in England or the 300,000 English in Wales?

Furthermore, I guarantee that the vast majority of the elderly Welsh in England spent their productive, working lives there, they did not move there when they retired.

Do you get it now, or do you simply not wish to understand?

Anonymous said...

I'll give you another few things to consider Jac.

Pensioners moving to Wales from England and buying a nice little house by the sea have, by definition, quite a lot of money.
They got that money by working in well paid jobs all their lives in England. All the time that they worked in those well paid jobs they paid National health insurance and income tax. Wherever they grow old they have a RIGHT to expect health care that they have paid for.
If they move to Anglesey or Gwynedd when they go to the Doctors they will sit alongside people who have NEVER had a well paid job and some who have NEVER had a job. Those people will expect and get the same level of care that English retirees will get, however their care will be subsidised by the people who you denigrate with such contempt.
If you look carefully at the Migration statistics you will notice that over 65s into Gwynedd and Anglesey neatly balances over 65s out of Gwynedd and Anglesey.

Conwy of course is very different but then the whole economy of places like LLandudno is dependent on the people you would like to exclude.

It's nearly a decade since Seimon Glyn theorised that the NHS in North West Wales was on the brink of collapse. It was scare mongering racist nonsense when he said it and it's scare mongering racist nonsense from you now.

Anonymous said...

Well as I have discussed this before, this just proves the point how badly thought out was the devolution for Wales. The North Wales corridor is a natural link with the Mersey-side and Manchester regions and there no connection with South Wales. I mentioned previously how we in the north should have formed a region with the north west, this would have solved our heath strategy and commerce.
The health service should never have been devolved to the Welsh Assembly, it should have remained a UK National Health Service.
The WAG is cutting the budget to the health service so that it can fund student tuition fees and free prescriptions in Wales Purely a vote catcher with young people.
So what about the elderly they are the forgotten ones. These are people who have contributed and who will now suffer. The sick people of North Wales are expected now to seek treatments in hospitals in South Wales. What chance has an elderly patient who may be gravely ill but has now to travel to the south
This is a wake call for us in North Wales to do something about, so what do you think "Druid" ???

Un o Fon

Anonymous said...

By the way Jac, I just checked, the last year that there are statistics for migration with the rest of the uk Anglesey LOST 20 to England. In the last 10 years Anglesey gained 420 of all ages.

Wales gained just 330 from the rest of the UK in 2008-2009.

No wonder the Welsh NHS is failing!

Yeah Right!

Jac o' the North said...

This debate is going nowhere because while I am dealing with a valid socio-economic concern others are turning it something more. Though before concluding I have three things to say.

Fist, I did not "denigrate with such contempt" anyone. Read what I wrote. It deals with the socio-economic problem of an influx of elderly people putting a strain on already stretched health services.

Second, those calling for greater linkage between north Wales and north west England probably have an agenda that goes beyond the provision of health care. Splitting Wales in two is very attractive for these people, but I suggest they consult the natives.
It may also be significant that they don't argue for better health care provision within north Wales, which tells me that - for political reasons - they want us to feel reliant on England, for everything.

Third, I don't accept the figures quoted. But in a few months we shall have the census, and that will give us real figures to debate with. I guarantee that some of the census findings will result in a rethink of the way Wales is organised, in many areas, and at an official level.

the outsider said...

Surely its the social care budget rather more so than the health budget that takes the strain of care for the elderly?

An ageing population is a fact in most western countries and advanced economies from Germany to Japan, the US etc. Throughout the UK it is mainly immigrant families that have the highest birthrate, eg Muslim and Catholic. It is the case that as nations improve their living standards they tend to have fewer children and so with an ageing population the age demographic changes over time. How we pay for an ageing population is indeed a problem, but if the Welsh economy improves then even without retired immigrants moving to Wales the Welsh nation is unlikely to buck this demographic trend.

However old people provide jobs for gardeners, carer's, nurses, cleaners, decorators,etc. And the younger retirees provide work for estate agents, sports facilities, accountants, etc! And what's more some may even be bringing their savings and accumulated wealth to invest in the island and help to set up businesses, provide local jobs and spending in the local economy.

Anonymous said...

Outsider:

Yes, many do bring savings etc and spend it in the area. Lots go by bus using the bus pass and do their shopping in Bangor. If the bus pass was withdrawn they would spebd all that dosh in their own communities...wonderful for the keepers of little shops.

Billy Elliot

Anonymous said...

Outsider:

Yes, many do bring savings etc and spend it in the area. Lots go by bus using the bus pass and do their shopping in Bangor. If the bus pass was withdrawn they would spebd all that dosh in their own communities...wonderful for the keepers of little shops.

Billy Elliot

Anonymous said...

Is ring-fencing NHS spending a Druid policy or a tory one?

Do the Welsh Conservatives follow the Westminster line or not?

The problem with England taking (or not taking) Welsh patients is to do with funding. Who introduced internal markets to the NHS?

If the Welsh Conservatives disagree that there should be internal markets in the NHS, does this mean they disagree that there should be a Welsh Asembly at all? And if so, does that not make them hypocritical for fielding candidates for it.

Where exactly will the Welsh Conservatives get this extra funding when the shortfall is actually being caused by the actions of their bigger (and politically superior) bretheren in Westminster?

Anonymous said...

KP said hroughout the region encouraging the use of more local services (and Cardiff in the event of anything more serious).

So why is it that our very own GP's don't want to refer us to our own hospitals?


Holyhead to Cardiff by car - 5 hours there, 5 back for an out patients appointment.

Holyhead to Cardiff by Rail - 5 hours there the day before, overnight in a hotel ), 5 hours back and extremly costly for low paid, unemployed and elderly (in fact unaffordable in reality).

Holyhead to Manchester/Liverpool - 2 hours by car or rail.

Which do you think a Doctor - who has to put the welfare of their patient first - will choose? At the chosing of hospitals phase by the GP it's not quality of care or statistics that are the primary driver but ease of access to the care.

One of my daughter's is a Doctor. She thinks it's little better than patient neglect to even consider sending someone to Cardiff.

Anonymous said...

Jac you're just a RACIST and a lazy one at that. The number of pensioners born in Wales and living in England is HIGHER than the number of pensioners living in Wales and born in England.

Do you mean in total? Or in proportion? And Jac wasn't talking 'Wales' he was talking 'North Wales'. Big difference and if you check you will find that North Wales is suffering a double-whammy of rapidly declining birthrate and accelrating average age caused precisely by pensioners retiring here bith from other parts of Wales and from England.

Hence the nickname for the coastal strip of Costa Geriatrica

kp said...

Anon 01:43

Agreed, Cardiff isn't the easiest place to get too, all the more reason why we start introducing policies to attract the better staff to hospitals throughout North Wales.

Come on, we want Wales to be a separate nation, we must take the responsibility (and the necessary hard decisions) to build it into one!

We need to make North Wales a more attractive place for 'overseas' people to come and live and work!

Anon 1:50

Sorry, but European Law prevents us from selecting the persons we want/do not want to live in this country.

And the NHS is funded by means of population count …… less people, retired or otherwise means less NHS spending power here in North Wales.

No matter, I would much prefer to have the elder generation living here and paying taxes rather than the younger generation living here and claiming social security.

Again, if we want more and better jobs here we must make this a more attractive place for 'overseas' people to come, live and invest in.

Anonymous said...

There is also the little matter of funding.

In 1997 Wales spent £30 per head more per year on NHS care than England did.
By 2001 this had slipped so that Wales spent £10 less per head than England and in 2008/2009 Wales spent £61 less per head than England on NHS care.

;) said...

That's the Anglesey way - slag each other off over side issues, (immigration, jobs, language, etc), rather than deal with the actual problem;
which is how do people with life threatening conditions or injuries get an acceptable level of access to the health care that could save their lives?

Doctor: "Oh well, they may be dead before their time, but at least they spoke Welsh"

Anonymous said...

Teacher: "Oh well, they may not be able to read or write, but at least they can speak Welsh"

Anonymous said...

Politician: "Oh well, they won't ever get a decent job, but at least they can speak Welsh"

Anonymous said...

Parents: "Oh well, thanks to all the social security benefits our kids will be able to marry and have plenty of their own kids that can learn to speak Welsh"

Anonymous said...

Cemaes Public Meeting Re: Wylfa B
It was interesting to hear the questioning anti opinions of so many who moved to this island which already hosted a nuclear power station. The points they made and the questions they posed might have valid points but isn't it odd, that despite all their (nuclear) concerns, they chose to live here. The majority (of them) all claimed to be from one particular opposition group and had spread themselves around the auditorium. Much of the meeting was wasted 'listening to their opinions' and here I do not include the gentlemen from Conwy who clearly stated his professional credentials upon which his sound knowledge was appreciated.

The hairman had a difficult taks in preventing the meeting from being Hi-Jacked, well done sir.

Billy.Elliot

Prometheuswrites said...

David Bowles and Anglesey Council finally make it into the pages of 'Rotten Boroughs' in Private Eye (Issue 1279 - Happy New Year), he for refusing to reveal that he gets paid £1.00 a year by the council, (plus £275,000 a year to Solace Enterprises Ltd for his services).

My New Year prediction is that Rotten Boroughs will again feature events at IoACC before the year is out.

Also of note is the imprisonment of Former Labour MP David Chaytor. jailed for 18 months for fraudulently claiming more than £20,000 in expenses.

I bet he wishes he could trade places with (an unnamed IoACC councillor) who allegedly did the same for a similar amount - however for some reason that was OK.

Good living here innit?

Anonymous said...

All's well that ends well, Gromit?

"NORTH Wales patients will continue to receive cardiac treatment at Broadgreen hospital, health chiefs have confirmed.

Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board made the announcement yesterday after completing negotiations with the Liverpool-based hospital." (continues)

http://www.dailypost.co.uk/news/north-wales-news/2011/01/08/victory-as-north-wales-patients-can-be-treated-at-broadgreen-hospital-55578-27951176/