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Welsh NHS patients need assurances safety issues being addressed

Systematic and wide-ranging problems with the NHS in Wales have come to the fore in recent weeks with doctors warning of an ‘imminent meltdown’ and the tragic death of a grandmother who was waiting in an ambulance queue outside A&E (BBC).

The Welsh health minister has said that it is a ‘system under pressure’. However although that is no doubt true, as it is for the NHS in England, there are worrying signs that in Wales the problem could go beyond huge patient demand and extend to how well existing services are provided and managed.

The family of Sonia Powell claim she was waiting in an ambulance outside Morriston Hospital in Swansea for at least an hour when she died. As a solicitor specialising in medical negligence, I find that appropriate care for patients with a serious or deteriorating illness is a basic requirement of any health system so it is concerning that this may not have happened in this case. If an A&E department is facing unprecedented demand then there should be an established contingency plan so that patient injury and death can be avoided.

On the same day that Sonia Price died the British Medical Association called for an independent investigation into the Welsh NHS. Meanwhile on Wednesday of this week concerns were raised in the National Assembly for Wales about patients of Morriston Hospital facing longer waits in A&E than any other hospitals in South Wales.

In terms of the experience of the team at JMW, we are currently helping patients and families who feel they have been let down by the Welsh NHS and that they have suffered as a result. Concerns include urgently needed operations being delayed due to there being a lack of available surgeons. 

Mistakes can happen in any section of the NHS, both in England and in Wales. However if there are systematic problems in Wales then patients need assurances that these will be addressed urgently and effectively and that their safety is not being compromised unnecessarily.

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