Originally published in the Western Mail.
The current pandemic has shown us just how vital the Welsh NHS is and the amazing work which its staff do day in and day out.
Most of us have known this for a while, but for many people who maybe haven’t needed to personally use the NHS for many years, they will be seeing daily television coverage of how our health service has responded and adapted to this unprecedented event which will be truly heart-warming.
Part of the wide-ranging agreement my colleague Kirsty Williams MS and the Welsh Liberal Democrats made with the then First Minister shortly after the 2016 Welsh Election was a commitment to ensure more nurses in more settings through extending the Nurse Staffing Levels Act.
The act, pioneered jointly by the Welsh Liberal Democrats and the Royal College of Nursing Wales, became law in 2016 and meant that Wales became the first country in Europe to introduce a legal duty to maintain a legal safe staffing level in our hospital wards.
This new extra commitment would mean we would see the law extended to settings such as paediatric inpatient wards and district nurses.
Despite the challenges of Covid, we were delighted to see progress on this commitment earlier this month when the Welsh Government launched a consultation on extending the regulations to include paediatric wards.
One of the reasons Kirsty and the Welsh Liberal Democrats chose to pursue this cause, first in opposition and then in government, was following conversations with healthcare professionals many of whom said that it was impossible to deliver the care they wanted to when staffing levels are inadequate.
This legislation has already made a difference to so many and has only strengthened the case for these measures to be expanded to more settings.
Staff levels are just one part of the journey towards an improved health service. Time and time again people tell me about their frustrations in arranging an appointment, being passed from consultant to consultant or department to department or simply the under resourcing of key areas.
My vision for a truly 21st century health service in a liberal Wales is simple:
A health system where patients are guaranteed the best treatment, in the right place, at the right time to meet their health needs.
A health system where patients are treated with care, dignity and the respect they deserve, and staff are encouraged to and rewarded for going the extra mile even in difficult and trying circumstances.
A health system where mental health provision is prioritised and not stigmatised or ignored.
Welsh Liberal Democrats will prioritise these aims as we approach next year’s Senedd elections.