This week I have been considering how we access the many services provided to us by Government, as several constituents have been in touch with me over the past few weeks about access to GP surgeries and the wider healthcare system. We have a number of issues in the area, which have been well documented and have exacerbated the problem, but the fact is that waiting times, an inability to get through on the phone, and the difficulty in making an appointment if you don’t have access to the internet are all barriers to treatment and are unacceptable.
I am trying to work with local surgeries, the health board and the Welsh Government to improve the situation but, as with everything, the more evidence I have the stronger my voice. Recently, for example, I raised with local surgeries and the Community Council the issues residents were facing with telephone systems. I am pleased that, following the discussions I have been having, improvements have been seen in the services provided. So please do make contact with me if you are experiencing difficulties.
Another area which people have had difficulty accessing is education, with often whole classes being sent home because a pupil has tested positive for Covid-19, meaning that thousands of Welsh students are missing out on education. With this in mind, I am pleased that the Welsh Government has announced that the school bubble system will be scrapped from September.
Instead to keep pupils and staff safe and in school, contact tracing will be transferred to NHS Test and Trace, who will alert pupils and staff if there is an outbreak in their educational setting. Only those in close contact with someone who has tested positive will be required to isolate, meaning less disruption for the majority of students.
Then there are vaccines for those students. As lockdown begins to ease, people – particularly the clinically vulnerable – have started to consider how the easing of restrictions might affect them. If you are an individual living with an auto-immune disease and with young children who are yet to be vaccinated, you will understandably be concerned at this period of transition. While I know those people will take every precaution to keep themselves safe, it is incumbent on us all to ensure that the vaccine is rolled out to as many as possible, as soon as possible, to keep everyone safe. Again, if you have concerns about this, please do make contact with me.
Accessing health, education and vaccines happens a lot differently now than it ever has done before. Most of us are learning as we go, and so it is important that we support each other as we do this. That means looking out for our neighbours, helping in our community, and asking questions of councils, governments, health boards, schools and businesses.