Last year, Member of Parliament for Wrexham, Sarah Atherton MP, highlighted the shocking state of health services in Wrexham. A year later, following persistent, major issues, including unacceptably long ambulance and A&E waiting times, Mrs Atherton has spoken publicly about the worsening situation. The standard of local health services in Wrexham have come under increased scrutiny recently following several high-profile failings.
In February 2023, Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board (BCUHB) re-entered special measures following a damning audit report. Currently, the health board is struggling to recruit a permanent Chief Executive. Mrs Atherton says the chaotic management at the top is filtering down to patients and NHS staff whose morale is at rock bottom.
A recent probe found that £122 million of BCUHB expenditure was not properly accounted for, and previously, the Welsh Government failed to spend £155 million during the height of COVID-19. Mrs Atherton alongside other North Wales Conservative MPs is now calling for a police investigation into the misappropriation of funds and is urging the Welsh Labour Government in Cardiff to release the damning report of the matter.
The development of Plas Gororau, an off-site outpatient building intended to relieve pressures on the main Maelor Hospital site, has come to a full stop. In addition, proposed diagnostic centres, which aim to reduce waiting lists for surgery and are operational in England, are yet to be seen in Wales. Following a spate of complaints about the Wrexham Maelor car park, Mrs Atherton visited the hospital to get a better understanding of the problem. This confirmed stories that the car park was consistently full, and patients often miss appointments as a result. Frequently, visitors are forced to park on double yellow lines and receive parking tickets.
Correspondence received by Mrs Atherton has highlighted the poor availability of dentistry services in Wrexham. In a recent report, the British Dental Association found that 93% of dentists in Wales are not taking on new Welsh NHS adult patients. As such, many people in Wrexham are travelling across the border to England to get appointments. Last month, Mrs Atherton wrote to the Welsh Labour Government’s Minister for Health and Social Services, Eluned Morgan MS, to raise her concerns and those of Wrexham residents. However, the situation shows no signs of improvement.
Mrs Atherton has previously published on social media, with permission, the distressing stories of constituents who have gotten in touch following poor experiences of Wrexham health services. These issues, which are consistently some of the most written about in her inbox, include:
- An 89-year-old woman who resided in a care home and waited 15 hours for an ambulance following a suspected stroke – then waited a further 8 hours in an ambulance outside Wrexham Maelor Hospital.
- A Wrexham constituent who was told that he would have to wait two and a half years for an initial orthopaedic consultation prior to any treatment.
- Accounts of paramedics waiting in ambulances and caring for patients outside Wrexham Maelor A&E for up to 24 hours due to staffing shortages.
Commenting on the state of local health services, Sarah Atherton MP said:
“It goes without saying that every health service failure is desperately sad. However, a recent case I dealt with was especially upsetting. A cancer survivor was forced to wait 24 hours in the back of the ambulance; another 24 hours in A&E; only to be taken to the Medical Assessment Unit overnight, where her painkillers were given to another patient. Sadly, stories like these are all too common. Most of my constituents now feel that complaining is pointless because nothing changes. More worrying still, many residents are now starting to think that this sub-standard level of healthcare is normal. Instead of BCUHB management listening to overworked and stressed NHS staff, they employ expensive agency practitioners, unable to give the same level of care, leading to spiralling costs.
“Parking at the Maelor is diabolical. Clearly, the ‘cut and shut’ structure of the hospital is not fit for purpose. This is exactly why I launched a campaign for a new Wrexham hospital. Residents who have waited months for an appointment – if not years – have contacted me to say they have missed their appointment due to poor parking arrangements. When I was at the Maelor recently, I spoke to two Wrexham Council Traffic Wardens who expressed their sympathy for desperate residents parking on double yellow lines to keep appointments. Unfortunately, they must still be ticketed. I have written to BCUHB and Wrexham Council asking if we can urgently work together to solve the parking issue.
“It is incredibly disappointing to see that, since my article last year highlighting the dire state of local health services, things have gotten worse. BCUHB is in special measures for the second time. £122 million of funds have been misappropriated. It is near-impossible to access an NHS dentist. And major problems persist with A&E and ambulance waiting times at the Maelor. Is it any wonder that Welsh NHS staff and patients have reached the end of their tether?”