Health Secretary Vaughan Gething addresses Welsh Labour Conference 2018
Health Secretary Vaughan Gething addresses Welsh Labour Conference 2018

Vaughan Gething AM speech to Welsh Labour Conference in Llandudno, Saturday 21st April 2018

***Check against delivery***


In the immortal words of Sansa Stark, winter has come.    

Another winter, where our health and care services have been tested to their limit.

Another winter, where our dedicated NHS and social care staff, the lifeblood of the service, have risen to the challenge.

Another winter, Conference, survived by Jeremy Hunt.

Not to be deterred by a junior doctors strike, by overseeing nurses leave NHS England in record numbers, starving the NHS of money, or even the outrageous claim that the Tories set up the NHS – he has become the longest-serving health secretary in history.

Unlike the loyal captain who remains with his ship, he stays afloat and allows his ship and crew sink beneath him. It is never his fault.  In Wales we continue to value and support our staff.

I personally – like almost all of you – have good reason to be grateful to the NHS. The kidney disease that took a year out of my life. Treated by the NHS. The midwives and health visitors who cared for my wife and our son. Treated and cared for by the NHS. Everyday stories that each of us recognise. The everyday excellence that values that we continue to fight for.

The professional and compassionate care that I see delivered every day makes me incredibly proud of our workforce and proud to be Health Minister. We saw the exceptional commitment of staff across Health, social care and every public service together with volunteers during the recent heavy snow. They went to truly extraordinary lengths to overcome the conditions and to deliver care for those most in need. Our staff are remarkable people and they deserve our utmost respect and gratitude.   

Respect and gratitude too often denied them by the Tories.

Thanks to the Tories NHS staff have endured a 7 year cap on pay, despite our repeated calls for Jeremy Hunt to scrap the cap and give all public sector staff the pay they deserve.

The Tories have grabbed headlines for finally lifting the cap in health, but none of us should forget that the since 2010 the Tories have imposed a real-terms pay cut of 14% upon our NHS staff.

I am happy to confirm again that money for NHS pay finally received from the UK Treasury will go straight into NHS pay here in Wales.

In Wales we treat health and social care together. We support integration and are seeing Delayed Transfers of Care at record lows. That is in stark contrast to the Tories in England who have decimated social care funding, heaping strain on their health service and are seeing the worst Delayed Transfers of Care on record.

They are acknowledging the importance of social care in one way only.

Not through investment.

But by adding it to Jeremy Hunt’s job title – tory tokenism at is worst.

Conference, we know that with more of us living longer creating unprecedented demand, our NHS and social care systems in their current form are unsustainable.  Wales needs a different system of care.

We will shortly publish our Long Term Plan for Health and Social Care in Wales in response to the Parliamentary Review. Never before have we achieved such a level of agreement and engagement across health, local government, the voluntary sector and with the public.

Our vision for the future is one where community-based, multidisciplinary health and care services are the norm. Where recruitment and staffing arrangements are cross sector and generalist skills are valued. Where we make better use of technology and data.  Where staff are empowered to do what is right for local people. We have been given a unique opportunity to change the future for the better – an opportunity we cannot afford to waste, reform that we cannot afford not to deliver.

That brighter future remains under threat from those who pretend to care about the NHS or patients or staff. I am sick and tired of the Tory lies on NHS funding in Wales.  The Tories have slashed £1bn from our budgets in 8 years of austerity and the Tories will not end austerity.  Only a future UK Labour Government will do that. In England privatisation is spreading and staff morale is at rock bottom.

In the face of these Tory cuts spending on NHS Wales is the highest it has ever been and rising faster than any other UK nation. The Tories and any other party calling for more resources than we already provide, can not and will not say what they will cut instead. They are neither serious nor honest.

In Wales the Tories have been cheerleaders for austerity in 3 successive general elections but they now complain bitterly about the unavoidable consequences of austerity.  In the chamber, in the media, the lies and scare stories they peddle serve only to demoralize staff, hamper recruitment and erode public trust.   We have to make our Labour voices stronger and louder to make sure people know how much there is to celebrate in NHS Wales.

We should celebrate the Welsh Labour creation of a New Treatment Fund. Launched in January last year we have speeded access to new medicines by 85%. We have slashed the average time for availability to only 10 days, making a real difference to people’s lives.

Unlike the Tories’ failed cancer drugs fund, the Welsh Labour New Treatment Fund covers medicines for all conditions including cancer. 82 new medicines are now available for conditions like epilepsy, Crohn’s disease, cystic fibrosis, asthma and breast, lung, colon and pancreatic cancer to name but a few.  The fund has meant that patients are being treated closer to home, not having to take time off work and that stress and anxiety are minimised.

Conference this year the NHS turns 70 – an NHS created in this country, by this party at the hands of the pioneering Nye Bevan.

It is the perfect opportunity to celebrate one of the labour movement’s greatest achievements.

The perfect opportunity to appreciate the vital role the service plays in our lives. To recognise and thank our extraordinary staff – the everyday heroes – who are there to support and care for us.

We also celebrate Windrush 70 this year. Many of the Windrush generation played a pivotal role in shaping the NHS and helping it become the institution it is today. The same incredible people whose sons and daughters are now being stripped of their rights, threatened with deportation to countries they left decades ago, denied access to the NHS because the Tories chose to create a hostile environment.  This shameful treatment, ignored and papered over by Theresa May, of families who helped to rebuild this country after the war. The apology isn’t enough. Stop blaming other people. Take responsibility and act.

Our NHS and social care sectors are lucky to have such a skilled and diverse workforce. Wales has rich history of welcoming healthcare staff who were born or trained both within and outside the EU.

We must continue to value them and the services they provide.

We must continue to celebrate the past. To be proud of what we helped created by delivering on our Labour values. The same Labour values that will direct the future for health and social care here in Wales.

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