'Moving Wales Forward' post-election – what does this mean for NHS Wales?
On 28 June 2016, Carwyn Jones announced that the first year of the Welsh Government's legislative programme would see six Bills being brought forward:
"Our legislative proposals span the establishment of Welsh devolved taxes, improvements in public health, and the reform of support for children and young people with additional learning needs. We are committed to working with Members in this Senedd and with communities and stakeholders, as we take forward our legislative programme this year, to ensure the laws we make in Wales are the best they can be for the people across this nation."
In his pre- election statement 'Moving Wales Forward', Carwyn Jones, the First Minister, indicated that the priorities for the next Welsh Government would include:
- Establishing a ‘New Treatment Fund’. Inspired by the English Cancer Drugs Fund, the proposal is for a broader fund covering all life-threatening illnesses, and including not just drugs but other treatments.
- Developing plans for the recruitment and training of additional GPs and other primary care professionals. This was a source of fierce debate in the run-up to the election period; with stories of recruitment issues for primary care services in rural areas, particularly in North Wales.
- Extending the Nurse Staffing Levels Act 2016 (not yet in force), which requires Health Boards to ensure sufficient nursing staff in adult acute services, to cover other areas.
- Reintroducing the Public Health Bill that was unexpectedly voted down at the end of the last Assembly, although without the controversial ban on e-cigarettes.
- Developing proposals to address ‘mental health discrimination’. Beyond prioritising this as an issue and increasing access to talking therapies (the areas of manifesto overlap), it’s not clear what this will mean.
- And finally, the government will ‘seek to establish’ a parliamentary review into the long-term future of health and social care. The Liberal Democrats championed this as a way of helping to
- depoliticise the debate about how the Welsh NHS should be structured and resourced to meet future demand.
This statement has been further enhanced in letters between the First Minister and Kirsty Williams, Cabinet Secretary for Education, which agreed that health and care–related priorities will include:
- More nurses in more settings, through an extended nurse staffing levels law.
- Putting an end to mental health discrimination.
- Considering the recommendations of the Diamond Review, with a view to early implementation, where appropriate.
Since then, Vaughan Gething, the newly-appointed Cabinet Secretary for Health, Well-being and Sport, has identified that the key challenges facing the Welsh NHS are reducing waiting times and further integration of health and social care. He has already introduced a number of initiatives including:
- Proposals to increase transparency in the social care sector under the first phase of the implementation of the Regulation and Inspection of Social Care (Wales) Act 2016. This will require providers of regulated services in Wales, including care homes, to prepare and publish an annual return, setting out the type and quality of the services they offer. At the same time, local authorities will be required to produce similar reports on how they have carried out their social services functions, the aim being to make it easier for people in Wales and CSSIW to compare services and to drive service improvement. Welsh Government’s consultation on the proposals opened on 28 June 2016.
- A new £80m treatment fund to support the early introduction of the most innovative, high-cost medicines recommended by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) and the All-Wales Medicines Strategy Group (AWMSG) to ensure treatment for life-limiting and life-threatening diseases are immediately and consistently available across Wales following a positive recommendation by NICE or AWMS. There will also be an independent review of the Individual Patient Funding Request process in Wales, which will consider the clinical criteria used to determine eligibility for access to treatments not routinely available on the NHS. The review will aim to ensure better consistency of decisions across Wales and make recommendations about what clinical criteria should be applied when determining eligibility.
We will be tracking the Welsh Government's legislative programme and providing advice to clients on the implications for service delivery.