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A healthier Wales, an efficient NHS.

Welsh Labour has let the NHS down. Although we spend more per head on the NHS than England, we suffer worse results - longer waiting times, slower ambulance response times, lower standards of treatment. Life expectancy can vary by nearly 20 years, depending on where in Wales you live.

The Welsh Liberal Democrats will always be guided by the founding principles of the NHS - providing free care, when you need it, regardless of your ability to pay. Building on those principles, we will tackle the inefficiencies of the present organisation to achieve higher standards of care.

Our healthcare system faces many challenges in the coming years, challenges of providing care in rural areas, increasing demand on mental healthcare provision and an aging population. To achieve this Welsh Liberal Democrats will ensure that health and social services work in a more joined up way so that people get the support they need from the people best able to help them.

We will reform the way health care is delivered by focusing on prevention and local service delivery. Moving NHS resources into preventing ill health or the need for medical treatment in the first place has two benefits: healthier lives and the NHS saves money. We must make sure that hospitals are seen as the last resort with prevention and community treatment being where most healthcare takes place. We will prioritise investment in community facilities to ensure that people get better treatment and at a lower cost.

We need to bring our social care system into the modern age. We believe that social care must ensure that people are looked after in ways appropriate to their needs and maximising their independence. If you need social or nursing care, we will allow you to decide what best suits your needs.

We have previously proposed a Minimum Nurse Staffing Levels Bill, which would provide for legally enforceable staffing levels to improve patient care, similar to successful legislation from California and Australia.

We will extend the Welsh Liberal Democrat inspired "Health Technologies Fund" to new medicines so that Welsh patients have access to the very latest treatments.

In government, the Welsh Liberal Democrats will prioritise…

  • Cut your waiting times by cutting waste. We will improve healthcare by switching ineffective spending in the NHS to the frontline.
  • Spending money on preventing the need for hospitalisation. Early intervention is better for patients and, when elderly people enter hospitals, their stays often become lengthy and debilitating. We will invest in projects to reduce the number of elderly people suffering slips and falls by preventive measures and ensure swift home treatment when they do occur.
  • Delivering a mental health strategy to radically improve treatment and access to mental health services, including tackling waiting times across Wales.
  • Establish a national framework to ensure continuity of treatment for young people transitioning from adolescent to adult services.
  • Protecting an individual's fee right to use electronic cigarettes where they like, unless there is evidence to suggest harm is being done to others.
  • Developing and implementing strategies for earlier diagnosis of sight and hearing problems. This will include raising awareness of hearing and sight problems in schools and workplaces. These actions will be another aspect of our emphasis on prevention, because early diagnosis improves lives and saves money.
  • Using local facilities, such as small hospitals and health centres, to provide 24-hour GP and nurse-led care to treat minor injuries and illnesses, so avoiding long waits in the A&E departments of major hospitals and unnecessary long ambulance journeys. Paramedics could be located at these local facilities to treat patients and to respond quickly to emergency calls. Instead of closing local hospitals, we would seek to use such facilities wherever possible to provide better service - while also reducing costs.
  • Requiring hospitals which keep patients waiting in ambulances for long periods to pay the cost of providing extra ambulances to meet other patients' emergency needs. In this and other ways, we will resource and enable the Welsh Ambulance Service to match the faster response times achieved in England.
  • Increasing the take-up of the most effective medicines by ensuring the newest drugs are available. This will be funded by streamlining the medicine approval process by merging the functions of NICE, the All-Wales Medicines Strategy Group and local formularies.
  • Implementing, as a priority, a National Comprehensive Cancer Plan, using money currently in the NHS budget to fund the most effective medicines and therapies. Better facilities will help cut waiting times and improve patients' quality of life.
  • Keeping people out of hospitals by introducing self-referral to health professionals such as physiotherapists and occupational therapists and using these professionals more effectively in diagnosis and treatment. We will consult all those involved to ensure a smooth implementation of self-referral.
  • Trialling a radical programme of healthcare, successfully developed in New Jersey, based around a network of doctors, nurses and social workers who will work with the neediest patients in their area to reduce regular hospital visits and improve those patients' access to more appropriate, and less costly, treatment.
  • Negotiating a Compact on Cross-border Health Provision with the Westminster Government to ensure that there is a consistent approach to treatment for Welsh and English patients. In many parts of Wales, the nearest specialist hospital is in England and the border must not stand in the way of securing the most appropriate treatment.
  • Establishing an Office for Health Spending to act as ongoing, independent and expert assessor of the effectiveness of NHS expenditure. It will be required to monitor rigorously how each LHB and Trust spends its budget, holding them accountable to an agreed set of outcomes. With its assistance, Ministers must ensure that NHS funds are used to optimal effect.
  • Ending the damaging ban on using private money in the health service - it cannot be justified in difficult financial times. We reject conventional PFI but health bodies should be free to use private sector money when necessary if they can prove it is better value and better for patients. This will ensure that more money is available to improve hospitals across Wales.
  • Targeting a mental health awareness campaign at employers, to address the high levels of unemployment amongst people with mental ill-health.
  • Supporting the new Mental Health Measure and ensuring that it works well, with effective scrutiny of how it is used. We will also provide better leadership of Mental Health Services by appointing a director of Mental Health within the Government.
  • Developing a Welsh 'locum bank' to save money on hiring locums from agencies and making it easier for the health service to fill temporary gaps in provision.
  • Rapidly increasing the use of Personal Budgets for care services - allocating a budget that people can control themselves. They can then decide how to spend this to meet their care needs and achieve agreed outcomes, in line with a personalised support plan. The allocated budget may be taken as cash (a direct payment) or as a service managed on their behalf. It can be used to design and purchase support from the public, private and third sectors, increasing people's autonomy over their care and support.
  • Fully implementing the Carers Measure that requires carers to be given quality advice. We will prioritise the needs of children who have caring roles and ensure that our policies on health and social care have to pass a carer's audit.
  • Encouraging public services, especially the health service, not to make assumptions about sexual orientation.