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Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Alcohol Pricing

This afternoon in Plenary Health Minister Edwina Hart AM set out the Welsh Assembly Government’s position on alcohol pricing.

I’m pleased that the Welsh Assembly Government are taking the issue of alcohol abuse seriously.

In recent years, the affordability of alcohol in the UK has been increasing, and this has played a significant role in the rise in alcohol consumption.

There is strong and consistent evidence that alcohol consumption and rates of alcohol-related problems are responsive to price.

It is clear that the relationship between the affordability of alcohol and the level of consumption provides an effective tool for controlling levels of consumption and reducing levels of alcohol related harm.

We believe it is essential that there is an increase in the level of excise paid on alcohol in the UK, and this should be relative to the number of units of alcohol. This increased taxation would not only reduce alcohol consumption and its related harms, but would also contribute to providing the necessary funding to meet the social and economic costs of these harms like police enforcement measures, healthcare service costs and treatment services.

We at BMA Cymru urge the Minister to act sooner rather than later in seeking further powers to tackle alcohol abuse, to help improve the health of the people of Wales.

Monday, 26 April 2010

WalesOnline - News - Health News - What do the big three political parties have to say about health in Wales?

BMA Members Jonathan Osborne, Sharon Blackford and Stefan Coghlan have been telling the Western Mail what they believe the priorities for the next government should be. Take a look here on page 3 and 4 of the article on health in Wales:

WalesOnline - News - Health News - What do the big three political parties have to say about health in Wales?

Do you agree with their opinions?

Friday, 23 April 2010

Mae hen wlad fy nhadau yn annwyl i mi

A line from the song which arouses passion in all who sing it. Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau, our national anthem.

It is precisely this type of gusto that BMA Cymru Wales would like to invoke in Welsh medical students currently studying elsewhere in the UK.

Our campaign “We’ll keep We'll Keep a Welcome / Pleidiol wyf i'm gwlad, intends to attract medical students back to Wales to train, and work as a doctor.

I’d like to thank all four Assembly Members who have contributed to my blog over the last two weeks in support of our campaign.

We really believe that Wales has it all. The standards of clinical training and career development opportunity are as good as can be found anywhere, with the added bonus of working in attractive surroundings offering excellent facilities and professional support.

With the added benefits of a quality lifestyle - reasonably priced housing, good schools and access to beautiful countryside - Wales is a clear winner when it comes to aligning career development with work-life balance.

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

“Wales has a tremendous amount to offer” - Shadow Minister for Health and Social Services, Andrew R.T. Davies A.M.

I am pleased to be given the opportunity to endorse the BMA Cymru campaign “We’ll keep a welcome”.

I have lived and worked in Wales all my life – I live with my family near Cowbridge in South Wales, situated in the rural Vale of Glamorgan but close to the Nation’s Capital City, Cardiff and we can therefore enjoy the best of both worlds – the beauty of the Welsh countryside and all that a bustling first city can offer.

We are never short of places to take our visitors - whatever their interests; the strikingly beautiful Welsh countryside boasts three National Parks and five regions designated as being of “Outstanding National Beauty”.

Wales has over 1200 Kilometres of coastline so you are never too far from the sea and the range of leisure activities that it provides, including surfing, sailing, fishing and swimming from some of the best beaches in the U.K. The temperate Welsh climate means that you can access the countryside throughout the year so if climbing the mountains of North Wales or the Beacons in the south are your bag or if you are into walking the coastal pathways or the picturesque valleys you will never be far from these areas.

Neither will you ever be far from civilisation – the cities and towns of Wales offer World – class theatres, museums and galleries – all evidence of the strong appreciation of music, literature and the Arts shared by Welsh people. Famous sons (and daughters) of Wales include Dylan Thomas, Richard Burton, Tom Jones and Shirley Bassey and throughout history many famous Welshmen and Welshwomen have helped shape the development of the Americas and emerging countries.

The Urban areas also have busy shopping centres that cater for all tastes and pockets and the night life – whether in the vast choice of restaurants of all culinary styles or in the friendly village pubs is there for all to enjoy and relax in.

In Wales we are also proud of the education that we provide for our children. We have a strong ethos of Life-long Learning and share our education facilities with many over-seas students. Our Universities are at the cutting edge of Research and Development, particularly in the Sciences and especially in Medicine.

Wales has its own unique culture and Celtic language, which although only spoken by 20% of the population, is enjoying a steady growth and is evident throughout Wales in the bi-lingual road signs and literature. This strong sense of culture helps the Welsh people to empathise with the cultures of other nations – illustrated by the International Eisteddfod held annually at Llangollen in North Wales since the Second World War to celebrate and promote understanding between nations of the World. Our Cities (Cardiff in particular) have a strong cosmopolitan flavour and are home to a myriad of ethnic cultures.

Did I mention Sport? The Welsh are renowned for their love of Rugby – but soccer also enjoys a wide following in Wales with highly enthusiastic teams representing their cities, towns, villages and schools. In fact, whatever your sporting interests you will not find it difficult to follow them in Wales.

Perhaps the thing that I love most about Wales is the people – the community spirit, the strong work ethic and the sense of “chwarae teg” (fair play) that is inherent in our culture makes me realise how lucky that I am to live and work in Wales, with the people’s sense of humour, willingness to communicate and their need to work as part of a cohesive team – working in Wales has much to recommend it – indeed, there has been an increasing inward trend for workers from outside Wales since the 1970s.

As a place to live and work I believe that Wales has a tremendous amount to offer – the beauty of its landscape, the entertainment in the towns and cities, the education and training opportunities available, the fascinating culture and history of the country and the warmth of its people make it a place that many want to come to but few want to leave.

Wales has a lot to offer everyone.

Monday, 19 April 2010

1,000 Lives Campaign

This week, the 1,000 Lives Campaign which was designed to improve patient saftey in the NHS in Wales comes to an end. Here is an article which I wrote for the Western Mail about the campaign.

Patient safety is the highest priority for anyone working on the frontline in NHS Wales and it’s making a real difference in primary care.

That’s why the British Medical Association strongly supports the 1000 Lives Campaign and works hard to highlight those areas of patient safety and care that are important to our members.

For doctors, safety and quality go hand in hand, and the Campaign has created a focus around which those can be considered every day, in every patient contact, by health professionals and managers alike.

As we come to the final months of this two year campaign, we are pleased to see how much progress has been made across Wales.

When the initiative was launched in April 2008, it was the first time that primary care had been included in a similar patient safety campaign anywhere in the world.

Wales has led the way and our members have contributed in many of the Campaign’s areas, including improving leadership, medicines management and general medical care.

We have seen the impact made by establishing patient safety WalkRounds and culture surveys which have empowered our members to talk about their concerns and hopes for improvement.

Again Wales has led the way in this area, becoming the first country to arrange a safety culture survey for its general medical primary care services at a national level.

And the response from our members have been extremely positive with over 60 per cent of GP practices taking part.

The results have been helpful in identifying aspects of care working well, but also raised areas where there is scope for improvement.

BMA Cymru supports a healthcare service that listens to the concerns of doctors, acts on those concerns to improve safety and quality of care, and in which health professionals are not afraid to speak out.

Last year we published the ‘Speaking up for Patients’ report based on survey responses from 565 doctors working in England and Wales.

Almost three quarters (74%) said they had concerns about issues relating to patient safety over the course of their career.

Within in this group, 73% said their concerns related to standards of care.

Seven in ten doctors said they had raised their concerns but were not always satisfied with the response.

Often they were not asked for further information or made aware if any action was taken to improve the issue.

WalkRounds and culture surveys have the potential to examine and improve patient safety issues across the whole patient pathway.

Other areas that have helped to improve patient care are in medicines management and work to improve the quality of life for chronic heart failure patients.

More than 80 GP practices are working with Health Boards to reduce, where possible, the number of unnecessary hospital admissions for patients with chronic heart failure.

The promotion of evidence-based procedures such as timely and accurate diagnosis, medication therapy, and lifestyle advice could make a significant impact on the disease process.

GPs are also currently carrying out detailed work to improve the reliability of instructions given to patients about their medication.

We have already seen the difference this has made for patients who take Warfarin and we are looking at other areas including diabetes.

The development of the primary care trigger tool to measure improvements is also being embraced by members.

We know that all our GP practices are continually making changes to ensure the care they deliver to their patients is the best possible.

But now, thanks to the trigger tool they will be able to actually measure those improvements, see how they are working and if they are making a difference.

One of the fundamental features of the new tool is looking at harm caused by failure to recognise or adequately manage a new presentation of an acute illness.

If a patient’s problem does not respond to treatment or they develop an adverse reaction, they are likely to make another appointment.

It is these unscheduled reattendances that can act as triggers of possible harm.

We are proud to see the progress made through the 1000 Lives Campaign, and that doctors across Wales are playing their full part in it.

BMA Cymru will continue to support the Campaign and to highlight those areas of healthcare over which our members have concerns – so that patients can look forward to even safer services in Wales.

What are your views on the 1,000 Lives Campaign?

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

“Wales may be a small country but it has a lot going for it” – Christine Chapman AM

How we get the next generation of Doctors to train in Wales continues to be a major issue and one which is not new for the BMA.

Representing an area which has traditionally suffered from high levels of health inequalities, over the last ten years I do think that we can talk up the achievements that have been made in Cynon Valley. We’ve got more salaried GP’s than ever which has helped to solve the recruitment problem we once had, new, modernised surgeries are clearly visible and in Spring 2011 the new Community Hospital in Mountain Ash will open its doors.

Across Wales, there is a choice of high quality facilities which provide first class training and education. But while clinical experience is very important, so too is the life experience.

I do think that what is attractive to those who have studied in England, particularly in the big cities such as London, is the quality of life on offer in Wales. Whether you are looking to continue with the city life or a more rural environment, Wales has much to offer. Generally house prices are lower and everyday living costs are more reasonable. In my own area, the Valleys have great opportunities for outdoor recreation, cycle trails, quad biking, mountain climbing and also its close proximity to Cardiff. Wales may be a small country but it has a lot going for it.

Christine Chapman AM Cynon Valley

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

“I am proud to work in the Welsh NHS” – Dai Lloyd AM

Croeso i Gymru! – Welcome to Wales! In Europe’s oldest living language, Welsh reflects the unique cultural and historical experience that is Wales. And, as a practising GP and a Member of The National Assembly for Wales, I am very well aware, naturally, that the National Health Service also, looms large in the National conscience of Wales.

From the history of the mining communities of the South Wales Valleys leading to the formation of the Tredegar medical Aid Society as a forerunner and template for the later NHS, the Welsh experience is not confined to the usual cultural issues, but extends to the Health Service too.

With the establishment of the NAFW in 1999, Health was devolved to Wales. Health Policy has developed differently here, and I am proud to work in the Welsh NHS.

Here in Wales, prescription charges were abolished in 2007. Patient care is thus not compromised by the cost of prescription items, people no longer have to choose themselves which item(s) in a multiple prescription to ditch. Northern Ireland and Scotland are following this proud example.

The internal market in Health has been dismantled with the latest NHS reorganisation in October 2009, Seven Health Boards now plan services – commissioning is a thing of the past.

In addition, no new PFI ventures are being undertaken in Wales, and the NHS in Wales remains a publicly-funded public service, with little private medicine. That is a reflection of the tremendous loyalty and trust that people still have for the NHS in Wales, a loyalty that is reflected in the esteem and respect accorded to the Nation’s Doctors and NHS Staff in general.

GPs here are not faced with the ubiquitous ‘Choose and Book” system and waiting lists have improved out of all recognition in recent years. Devolution brought more Medical Schools in Swansea and North Wales, and an exciting new, Postgraduate Medical School in Swansea.

The accent is rightly on Public Health in Wales, and history will record the first vote to ban smoking in enclosed public buildings in these Islands occurred in the National Assembly for Wales in January 2003. The absence of the relevant powers however, meant the ban had to wait until April 2007 to kick in.

For doctors certainly, Wales offers a different experience – yes, the fine scenery of mountains, beaches and breathtaking views – yes, the history and traditions – and yes, also an NHS still true to its founding principles.

Croeso i Gymru!
Dr Dai Lloyd AM South Wales West
Plaid Cymru

Monday, 12 April 2010

“What is important is that we do not become a net exporter of medical talent” – Peter Black AM

BMA Cymru have been concerned for some time about the shortage of doctors in Wales. It is a problem that we feel can no longer be ignored. For NHS Wales to maintain a high standard of delivery, sustainable solutions for the future need to be put in place now.

I have asked four Assembly Members for their take on this important issue. Today’s entry is from Welsh Liberal Democrat spokesperson Peter Black AM.

In March, the BBC reported that Wales is currently short of around 400 hospital doctors. Given that the total number of hospital doctors in Wales is only around 5,500, this is significant.

We have a significant problem with waiting lists in Wales. The latest statistics released by the Welsh Assembly Government show that there are 6,450 people who have currently been waiting for either an inpatient or outpatient appointment for over 22 weeks. The numbers of doctors available to treat them will not be the only factor in this, but it will be a significant one.

The need for new doctors in Wales is one that is not just confined to hospitals. The number of GPs under 45 has dropped considerably in the last ten years, from 951 to 743, while the number aged over 55 has increased from 272 to 450. This means we could expect roughly a quarter of our present GPs to be retiring within the next ten years or so.

Despite this, there has been no real increase in the number of GPs at the younger age of the scale during this period.

Many of those from Wales who choose to study medicine do so outside of Wales. Young people often do not want to stay in the area they have been brought up in and use their student years to explore the world by experiencing new places and people. This is natural and leads to well rounded individuals who are needed by every workforce.

However, what is important is that we do not become a net exporter of medical talent. When someone leaves Wales to study, we need to ensure that they are encouraged to return and that those who come from England to study in Wales are encouraged to remain.

As is often the case, the Welsh Assembly Government seem to have their heads in the sand over this issue. They claim that there are few vacancies and that there are good response rates to those vacancies that do appear. Even if they are correct and that is the case at present, we still have a potential looming crisis.

In healthcare, often the solution to short term problems is recruitment from abroad. However, if we have the talent, why should we have to poach professionals from other countries who have their own healthcare requirements?

The campaign currently underway by the BMA to encourage more Welsh medical students to return to Wales is a great idea and one which I very much back. Wales is a fantastic place to both live and work and we need to highlight this to students.

But this alone will not solve the problem. The government must ensure that the health boards have the funding they need to provide adequate coverage in all parts of the health service, so that the jobs are there for students to go into.

Putting off extra recruitment for later years will only make waiting lists longer, increase present GP workloads and make the problem more difficult to solve when our current medical professionals begin to retire.

The BMA are showing leadership on this issue, and now the Government need to back this up.

Thursday, 8 April 2010

Sunbed ban to become law

We are delighted that the Sunbeds Bill has passed through the Lords!

BMA Cymru would like to thank Julie Morgan MP for highlighting this important issue, and for the hard work which has gone into making this law.

Doctors have been concerned for some time about the effects that exposure to harmful UV rays can cause.

Younger skin is especially sensitive to ultraviolet light, and just one day of burning as a child increases the risk of getting skin cancer as an adult.

This legislation will protect vulnerable young people, and have a positive effect on the health of the people of Wales.

We will continue to work with the Welsh Assembly Government over the coming months as the regulations are drawn up.