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Mike Powell on the Health Service

Health is a devolved issue and has been under the control of Labour led Welsh Government since 1999.

It has been the subject of much school yard politics recently but the sad fact is that no matter how far in the sand the Labour party wishes to bury its head we are not getting the service in Wales that we have a right to expect.

Rhetoric aside the figures speak for themselves and we are lagging behind in almost every measure. A&E waiting times, cancer treatment times and not forgetting ambulance response times, where RCT is constantly at or near the bottom of the table when it comes to responding to emergency calls. In December we hit an all time low of just 29.9% of emergency calls being answered within the target time of 8 minutes. Even more disgracefully almost one in five people waited more than 30 minutes for an emergency call out.

Of course the NHS isn't perfect the other side of Offa's Dyke, far from it, but I am concerned about the service we receive here, in Wales, in RCT, in the Pontypridd constituency.

Yes it is devolved and as such it is our Assembly Members who should really be doing the jumping up and down over this, but MPs in this area have sat back and said nothing, choosing to criticise Westminster in an effort to score cheap political points rather than look at the services their constituents are receiving.

Of course Labour hope to capitalise on the confusion that exists in the minds of many people over what exactly devolution means and who is responsible for providing services in Wales. It suits them to keep that confusion going.

Locally we have seen a constant erosion of our health services.

The South Wales Programme, initiated by the Welsh Labour Government, carried out a consultation which overwhelmingly supported retention of servi9ces at the Royal Glamorgan. The statistics provided by the Health Boards themselves showed that the need for those services was greater in this area, yet all that was ignored. Severe trauma services, in patient paediatrics, consultant led maternity services and of course neo natal services are all to be taken from the Royal Glamorgan.

With the appalling ambulance record then patients have every cause to be concerned about having to travel further for emergency care. Mothers who have unexpected complications during delivery would have to transfer from the Royal Glamorgan midwife led unit to Prince Charles in Merthyr or Princess of Wales in Bridgend.

The promise was that stronger primary and community care services would be put in place before any downgrading of our hospital, but that has not been the case. In the Rhondda the GP out of hours service has been stopped, putting more pressure on the service at the Royal Glamorgan. The Health Board advises people to seek help elsewhere before going to A&E but how are they supposed to do that?

The Labour party will squeal about needing more money and try and shift the blame elsewhere but in fact it is they who have driven the NHS in Wales to crisis point.

We need fewer managers, less red tape and more front line staff.

This is not about more money being poured into the NHS, although any extra is always welcome. It is about the way in which it is used, the way services are managed. It is about having sufficient staff to operate a reliable and save service.

Plaid have been jumping up and down with their 1000 doctors proposal, and whilst this may make headlines it is a pie in the sky proposal for a number of reasons.

The NHS is not just about doctors, yet Plaid seem to ignore this. We need more specialised staff across the board.

Where are these doctors going to appear from all of a sudden? It takes years to train doctors, and the issue in many cases in our hospitals is not that they cannot afford to pay them but that they do not exist or if they do they do not want to come to Wales. Vacancies are being advertised and going unfilled.

One of their ideas to pay for these doctors is to put a tax on fizzy drinks. Yet health experts encourage people not to drink fizzy drinks, and extra cost would surely result in lowered sales, so that just does not add up.