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Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Surgeons’ overtime bill highlights more deep-rooted problems within the Welsh NHS

The front page of the Western Mail today highlights an issue that has been of concern to BMA Cymru Wales for some time - the need to adequately staff the Welsh NHS.

The over-reliance on overtime and private hospitals to try and ensure waiting time targets are met, is merely using a sticking plaster to patch up what is a much more serious problem. There has been insufficient investment in the NHS in Wales over the last few years, with the default position becoming one of buying additional capacity through short-term schemes. Surgeons do not work on their own, they’re part of a team, including anaesthetists, nursing and other clinical staff. Extra resources are therefore needed to manage these issues long-term, with the employment of more surgeons, anaesthetists and nurses.

NHS staff are being pushed to the limit to deliver the 26-week access targets by December, set by the Welsh Assembly Government. Added to this is the impact of the European Working Time Directive, introduced in August, with many doctors being encouraged to work above the 48-hour limit set by this legislation.

It may not be what either politicians or patients want to hear, but if the current financial pressures do not allow for the NHS in Wales to be better resourced, then maybe it’s time for the WAG to scrap targets, as without extra resources, quality of care will undoubtedly suffer, which certainly isn’t in the best interests of patients or doctors.

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