There is no part of our public services that faces more challenges than the NHS. An ageing population, with an epidemic of obesity and chronic illness, coupled with rising drug costs represent a gathering crisis for health systems around the world. But in Wales, the birthplace of the NHS, they have been compounded by poor leadership since the onset of devolution that have left us with a poorly structured service, delivering far poorer health outcomes than in comparable parts of Europe or the UK. We want to change this and create a New Wales.
More Doctors, Nurses and Dentists
The number of doctors per person in Wales is lower than in Scotland and is one of the lowest in Europe, despite our higher ill-health statistics.
We want to train and recruit an additional 1,000 doctors, 5,000 nurses, and 100 dentists for the Welsh NHS. We will increase the number of home-grown Welsh doctors, nurses and dentists through our investment in medical schools and training, including accelerating development of a medical school in Bangor. This will bring down waiting times and mean that everyone receives the care that they need.
The Welsh NHS makes too much use of Agency staff. We will bring this amount down to free up more money to contribute to our recruitment programme.
There is no place for profiteering in our health service. Plaid Cymru rejects the marketisation and privatisation of the NHS and will continue to oppose any moves in that direction from governments, whether in Westminster or Cardiff Bay.
We commit absolutely to the NHS and will not privatise any aspect of its work. In fact, we will extend the entitlement to free care to other aspects of health and well-being. We will create a truly national NHS, building its capacity to provide a wider array of services and ensuring its services are accessible to all, in every part of Wales.
We strongly oppose the inclusion of the Welsh NHS within any future trade deals with the USA and will promote legislation in the Assembly to this ends if necessary.
Mental Health Services
Plaid Cymru strongly believes that Mental Health should have parity of esteem with other NHS services.
We will establish a 24/7 Mental Health Crisis service for those in acute distress, that will work alongside the emergency services. We will continue to support whole population approaches towards improving the mental health of everyone and preventing illness through better education in schools, access to green spaces, and the tackling of stigma and discrimination experienced by so many.
We will improve community mental health services by training more counsellors and therapists so that alternatives to medication are available in all communities where this is appropriate.
We do not believe that prison cells should ever be used to house those in distress due to a lack of mental health care beds. We will ensure that each community has an appropriate amount of beds.
Some people with mental health problems also have problematic substance use issues. Mental health professionals should be trained to deal with these inter-related and co-occurring conditions.
We will tackle the unacceptably long waiting times for Child and Adolescent Mental Health services and ensure that transition to Adult services is smooth and delivered in an age appropriate way to ensure that those that need to access adult services are ready to do so.
Wales continues to have lower cancer survival rates than most countries in Europe. Diagnosis at an earlier stage is essential in improving long term survival. Diagnostic testing that is currently only available in south Wales will be extended to the rest of the country.
We remain committed to ensuring cancer patients have a key worker to support them at all stages of their cancer journey. We will develop cancer pathways that enable speedier treatment, particularly for those at greater clinical risk.
We believe that it’s simply not right that if you’re suspected of having cancer you have to wait so long to be tested so we will make sure that everyone in Wales is tested and given a diagnosis or the all clear within 28 days.
We will also reduce demand for acute treatment over the long-term through greater peer support and public health policies aimed at reducing lifestyle related illnesses.
We will improve access to rural healthcare by providing Accident and Emergency and Maternity services within one hour’s reach of rural and peripheral communities. We will reform NHS planning guidance to avoid penalising rural hospitals. Clinical networks will enable consultants working predominantly in smaller hospitals to retain sufficient skillsets.
We will place public health at the heart of our policy, not at the margins.
Plaid Cymru has already led the way on public health measures in Wales, campaigning successfully for a ban on smoking in public places and minimum alcohol pricing. We will further explore how the tax system can be used to promote public health, and through imposing additional taxation on other potentially harmful products where appropriate.
We will establish an independent, publicly funded National Institute for Public Health to advise on all public health matters without being influenced by vested interests. This body will also be responsible for supporting schools in educating children about healthy lifestyles.
We will prevent local authorities from cutting access to sports and leisure facilities and reform planning law to provide greater protection for green spaces in urban areas, expanding the minimum requirements for play area provision in planning developments, and banning the sale of playing fields for housing unless those fields are replaced on a like for like basis.
We will increase spending on active travel routes and promote walking and cycling. We will ensure all schools meet the minimum requirement of providing children with the opportunity to do two hours of physical activity each week.
We will take a public health approach to drug use, which means we will follow a policy of dissuading new drug users and encouraging dependent drug users to enter treatment whilst focusing police resources on those who profit from the drugs trade.
Drug misuse can have a debilitating effect on people and their loved ones. However, the current hardline approach to drugs criminalises citizens who have an addiction but does nothing to help them overcome their problems. It also criminalises people may use drugs medicinally or recreationally but who do no harm to others.
Rather than focusing services on all drug users, we believe we should focus on the small number of people with dependency and seek to address the underlying causes of their misuse.
Drugs have been decriminalised in Portugal since 2001, enabling a public health approach to drug users; dissuading new drug users and encouraging dependent drug users to enter treatment whilst focusing police resources on those who profit from the drugs trade.
By sending the message that drug users are not criminals, the reform has contributed towards greater tolerance and integration of drug users into society. It has reduced the stigma around drug use and has allowed more users to access the treatment they need.
Moreover, drug use in Portugal has decreased since decriminalisation. Its drugs prevalence is below the EU average and, for example, it now has the lowest rate of cannabis use in the EU. Rather than turning more people towards drugs, decriminalisation has allowed more people to receive the treatment they need.