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BMA Cymru Wales council chair delivers keynote speech to doctors at BMA's annual conference

Addressing doctors at the BMA’s Annual Representative Meeting (ARM) in Bournemouth, Dr Phil Banfield, BMA Cymru Wales council chair, called for an independent inquiry into ABMU Health Board’s process for investigating formal concerns. He said ‘it is unacceptable for a health board to investigate serious concerns about itself.’

Delivering his final speech as BMA Cymru Wales council chair, Dr Phil Banfield, said:

Chair, RB, this is my fifth and final report to you as chair of Welsh council; it has been a huge privilege to represent BMA members in Wales. I couldn’t have done it without the help and support of David Bailey, my fellow council members and the magnificent Cardiff office staff.

BMA Cymru Wales has had a successful year engaging with both the profession and the public. We are beginning to see real benefits of political devolution as Wales becomes a world leader of public health policy with the implementation of the Public Health (Wales) Bill. BMA members and staff worked tirelessly together to influence and shape the Bill, and our success in doing so demonstrates the pivotal role we have had in achieving BMA policy sown here at the ARM. The devolved nations can make BMA policy happen.

So what’s occurring in Wales?

Well, there are still considerable challenges which urgently need to be addressed – the adequacy of funding; progress towards achieving positive levels of medical engagement; and ensuring sufficient doctors are trained and employed to meet the needs of Wales, to name but three.

Money is tight, so it’s frustrating to see the benefits that Wales should have from its devolved powers being squandered; squandered by inefficient complex organisations choked by interim incumbents occupying ever-increasing layers of management. Too many staff still report feeling abandoned on the frontline of care, by decision-makers devoid of patient contact and ignorant of the conditions they are asking clinical teams to work under.

The tragedy is that much of this is needless and avoidable; some health boards in Wales have made great progress with engaging their medical staff in planning for today and the future; others seem intent on a woeful disregard of their workforce.

It cannot be right that GP sustainability worries are met in some health boards by material help and in others by instructions to hand back the keys. It cannot be right that our members are still ignored and chastised for raising concerns about patient safety and it cannot be right that investigations of concerns are tainted by conflicts of interest. That is why, today, we are calling for an independent inquiry into ABMU Health Board’s process for investigating formal concerns. Since Francis, it is simply unacceptable for a health board to investigate serious concerns about itself. Despite us highlighting the potential lack of openness and transparency, our calls have fallen on deaf ears. This is not the NHS we aspire to be part of.

But we have made considerable progress and there is reason for optimism in Wales. For all that we know needs to change, BMA Cymru Wales' collaborative approach and the doctors’ relationship with OUR Government is built on mutual respect. We are fortunate to have a Cabinet Secretary for Health who ‘gets' the health service. He has no illusions of the magnitude of the task, but engages constructively, positively and with a sense that we are all in this together to protect the social model of health care.

The Welsh NHS claims it is on the cusp of moving from rhetoric to reality. The NHS Wales Core Principles enshrine a values-based path to our future sustainability. Given the financial constraints, it is even more important that we make Wales professionally and personally the place to live, work and train. It is these values that enabled us to agree the SAS charter for Wales; a charter that really values SAS doctors as the essential colleagues they are; it is these values that we now challenge the service to deliver and it this these values that the patients and frontline staff expect our NHS to live by.

Progress has been made on recruitment to GP training posts in Wales and BMA support for educational contracts will protect training as a priority for all juniors in Wales. Pressure from BMA Cymru Wales means Wales will soon mirror the English arrangement of the legal protection offered to trainees who whistle blow. We are working with employers and the NHS Confederation to address poor levels of clinical engagement. But this is just the start, and the challenge before us is immense.

A new Welsh council beckons, but our direction and purpose are clear. Those fishing the pond may change, but you are not off the hook, health boards – you must deliver the core principles, facilitate change and productivity instead of perpetuating your complexities – a managed decline of services is not the same as using evidence to reconfigure services based on patient needs; we must narrow, not widen, inequalities and access to health care.

You are not off the hook, Welsh Government – you must not only deliver a clear vision of health and social care in Wales, but the map and resources to get us there. The profession in Wales remains ready and willing to work with you to seek effective solutions to the system-wide problems in order to deliver lasting improvements in the NHS.

Like so many of us in our corner of the UK, I am really proud of our NHS in Wales. I am very proud to be a part of our BMA and I am extraordinarily proud of all we have achieved together in Welsh council.

I move.


For further information or to arrange an interview please contact:
Carla Murphy
Head of Media and Public Affairs, BMA Cymru Wales
[email protected]

For further information please contact:

BMA Cymru Wales, Fifth floor, 2 Caspian Point, Caspian Way, Cardiff Bay, Cardiff, CF10 4DQ
Telephone: 029 2047 4626
Mobile: 07500 765994
Email: Carla Murphy ([email protected])