Thursday, 11 November 2010

Public Health Matters...

As the old saying goes, prevention is better than cure. Yet too often the need to prevent people falling ill or developing medical conditions comes second to the acute needs of those already suffering. As health budgets have been placed under enormous pressure in recent years and with increasing demands on our hospitals, the rise in the number of public health crises – such as obesity, smoking and sexually transmitted diseases - continues to go unchecked.

In these times of economic austerity, savings are being sought in every corner of the NHS in Wales as Edwina Hart and her officials take £435 million out of the NHS before the end of this financial year. But what’s the true price of Labour’s legacy to Wales and who pays for it?

With the cost of alcohol misuse in Wales at around £70-85 million and with around 1,000 deaths attributable to alcohol per year in Wales, the cost of the Welsh Assembly Government (WAG)’s ineffective policy is all too apparent. Instead of investing in tackling the root causes of alcohol misuse, the Health Minister continues to rely on the dedication of health professionals to pick up the pieces at the frontline of A&E departments, at huge expense to the taxpayer.

While the Government thinks that introducing minimum pricing on alcohol may possibly curb the incidence of drunken anti-social behaviour in the short term, it is merely the plaster that covers the bullet wound whilst penalising moderate consumers.

WAG’s approach to public health matters in Wales has been found wanting. The Labour/Plaid Coalition Government is haemorrhaging money while the statistics continue to rise. With the astronomical rise in diagnoses of sexually transmitted infections, a decade of a Labour-led government has little to show for its efforts. By 2025, around 225,000 people will have been diagnosed with diabetes; that’s over 7 per cent of the Welsh population. Unless we address these lifestyle issues underlying our public health crises, health inequalities will continue to expand meaning you are likely to live longer if you live in the Vale of Glamorgan than in the Rhondda Valley.

By refusing to protect NHS funding in Wales in real terms, the WAG is playing Russian roulette with the health of the Welsh nation.

Can we afford not to protect health spending? Simply put, the answer is no.

It’s time for a change. Not another health reorganisation. Two restructures of the NHS in Wales at a cost of more than £30 million is quite enough waste. No, what we need is a broader focus. We need a longer term view of the challenges facing Wales. We need a more holistic approach that uses the talents of health and social care professionals more effectively. We want better cohesion of services so that the focus is on prevention rather than cure. We want a wholesale change in our health behaviour.

The Welsh Conservatives are committed to getting it right now so that future generations don’t ultimately foot the bill.

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