It is a pleasure to follow Amy Callaghan. Indeed, I congratulate her on her maiden speech. She spoke with striking personal elements as well as a very clear affection for her constituency. She clearly has strong views, and in that respect she evidently follows on in the long line of strong women representing her area, so I congratulate her wholeheartedly.
It is a privilege to be back here again representing my home constituency of the Vale of Clwyd following an unwelcome and enforced couple of years away. I am, of course, generously termed a retread.
I must start by placing on record my true thanks to all my constituents who voted for me, many of whom voted for my party for the first time ever. It is my ambition to live up to their hopes and aspirations, as well as to the hopes and aspirations of everybody else who did not vote for me. As I did in 2015, I pay tribute to my predecessor, Chris Ruane, who was well respected and represented the constituency very ably for more than 20 years in total.
On the doorsteps in November and December, there was no bigger domestic issue than health. I must declare an interest, as I am an NHS doctor and I am also married to an NHS nurse. Between 2017 and 2019, I worked full-time as a GP in my constituency in Rhyl and in other parts of north-east Wales and west Cheshire. This has given me a unique insight into the state of the NHS in north Wales and further afield. Health matters were transferred to Cardiff, almost in their entirety, 20 years ago. That includes the organisation, structure and basic terms of functioning of the NHS. The reality, though, is that there is still much confusion among the electorate about where powers lie, and my inbox has been inundated with NHS issues since my re-election.
The north Wales health board—the Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board—has been in special measures for more than four and a half years, which my constituents and I find totally unacceptable. As yet, there is still no evidence of a turnaround, and my constituents are being let down by a systemic failure in the north Wales NHS. I am extremely limited for time today due to the number of speakers, but in future debates I hope to expand in detail on the issues that I have come across over the last two years in particular. Let me just emphasise that comparable and meaningful data to highlight the extent of this state of affairs is often lacking—if I am honest, I think that may be deliberate—especially given that one of the benefits of devolution was meant to be that we could compare performance of different policies across different parts of the UK. I will expand on the causes behind the problems that I have come across on another occasion, but let me say now that workforce is a key issue, including poor recruitment and retention of staff.
To conclude—in the 40 seconds or so I have left—I have outlined not only interesting statistics, but sadly an indication of unnecessary loss of life and of harm to real patients. At the very least, there is a need for UK-wide patient safety mechanisms and rigorous inspection regimes, underpinned by comparable statistical data on performance and outcomes. I urge the Secretary of State seriously to consider that when progressing the initiatives outlined in the Queen’s Speech.