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Wednesday, 13 August 2008

NHS changes and the National Eisteddfod

This is my first attempt at a blog, so bear with me as I grasp the ins and outs of blogging! BMA Cymru Wales is trying to keep its members up-to-date with current events and issues as they happen. I would welcome any feedback and “constructive” interactive comments on what I post on my blog. I want members to see this as a useful way to directly get their point of view across to BMA Cymru Wales.

Current issues being worked on in the BMA Cymru Wales office at the moment include establishing the membership of the new Welsh Council. Proposals for reform of Welsh Council were successfully passed at this year’s Annual Representative’s Meeting in Edinburgh. The challenge for new members when elected soon, will be to elect a new chair and vice chair to lead Welsh Council over the next three years, at what promises to be an exciting time in our history.

As you are no doubt aware, the Assembly is currently in recess for the summer. There are quite a few important issues already under consideration. There was the Health Minister’s announcement just before recess about NHS reorganisation. This partly involves the end of NHS trusts and local health boards in their current form. These bodies will be reconstituted as one unified body, effectively creating a single local health organisation, responsible for delivering all healthcare services within a geographical area.

In principle, we support any plan to reduce the number of structures that detract from and absorb resources from the provision of frontline NHS services by hospitals, in community settings or in general practices, thereby reduce artificial funding boundaries.

The plans though are causing concern among some parts of the medical profession – especially GPs.Understandably, they fear that any new unified bodies, particularly if the intention is to base them at hospital trusts, will simply see them continuing to focus on hospital-based activity.
And running alongside the concerns of GPs, we have the place of Public Health services. Our Public Health Committee is significantly worried that the review of Public Health services underway in Wales is not aligned with the proposals for reconfiguration. The committee is very concerned that the role of local directors of Public Health medicine is not being factored into the future vision for the Welsh NHS.

On perhaps a somewhat lighter note, BMA Cymru Wales for the first time ever had a stand at the National Eisteddfod in Cardiff. This isn’t something we’ve done before and was the idea of our Senior Public Affairs Officer, John Jenkins. As it turned out, it was an excellent opportunity for BMA Cymru Wales and its staff to meet with the general public, as well as doctors from across Wales. The team from the office included John, Hayley Mellors, Chris Jones, Jill Beddoes, Nia Potter and Liz Howard.

They all mucked in to make sure the whole eight days were a success, despite some wind and heavy rain along the way. I know myself from past experience, just what hard work is involved in this type of event, having provided medical cover at various events in Wales. It can take it out of you, meeting and greeting people, for on average eight hours a day, for eight solid days. But judging from the feedback I’ve had from doctors and people in the office, it was more than worthwhile.

What really made the week, especially for John, was the fact that our stand won second prize in the best stand competition, out of dozens of others on the Maes. John, Hayley and Chris were rewarded with their moment in the limelight, going up on stage in the main pavilion, to collect their award!
The main reason for the BMA stand being singled out for praise was the element of interactive-ness and fun that it had, combined with educational aspects. For instance, we had a life-sized human torso, complete with removable body parts, which children had to put back together within a certain amount of time. We also used the stand to highlight key issues BMA Cymru Wales has been lobbying on in the last few years, including the effects of smoking, teaching people about their daily units of alcohol, how maggots and leeches are being used in modern medicine to treat wounds, and yes, we did indeed have live maggots and leeches on the stand too!

On average, 80 people visited the stand each day, including key politicians in Wales. I would just like to say a big thank you to all of you who popped in for a chat and a cup of tea. We will be looking at opportunities to repeat this whole experience again at future National Eisteddfods and other key events around Wales.

Dr Richard Lewis
Welsh Secretary
BMA Cymru Wales