Y Pwyllgor Iechyd a Gofal Cymdeithasol

Health and Social Care Committee

13/01/2022

Aelodau'r Pwyllgor a oedd yn bresennol

Committee Members in Attendance

Gareth Davies MS
Jack Sargeant MS
Joyce Watson MS
Mike Hedges MS
Rhun ap Iorwerth MS
Russell George MS Cadeirydd y Pwyllgor
Committee Chair

Y rhai eraill a oedd yn bresennol

Others in Attendance

Albert Heaney Llywodraeth Cymru
Welsh Government
Claire Bennett Llywodraeth Cymru
Welsh Government
Danielle Jefferies The King's Fund
The King's Fund
Eluned Morgan MS Y Gweinidog Iechyd a Gwasanaethau Cymdeithasol
Minister for Health and Social Services
Irfon Rees Llywodraeth Cymru
Welsh Government
Jonathon Holmes The King's Fund
The King's Fund
Judith Paget Llywodraeth Cymru
Welsh Government
Julie Morgan MS Y Dirprwy Weinidog Gwasanaethau Cymdeithasol
Deputy Minister for Social Services
Lynne Neagle MS Y Dirprwy Weinidog Iechyd Meddwl a Llesiant
Deputy Minister for Mental Health and Wellbeing
Steve Elliot Llywodraeth Cymru
Welsh Government
Sue Hill Royal College of Surgeons of England
Royal College of Surgeons of England
Tracey Breheny Llywodraeth Cymru
Welsh Government

Swyddogion y Senedd a oedd yn bresennol

Senedd Officials in Attendance

Amy Clifton Ymchwilydd
Researcher
Claire Morris Ail Glerc
Second Clerk
Claire Thomas Ymchwilydd
Researcher
Dr Paul Worthington Ymchwilydd
Researcher
Helen Finlayson Clerc
Clerk
Katie Wyatt Cynghorydd Cyfreithiol
Legal Adviser
Lowri Jones Dirprwy Glerc
Deputy Clerk
Sarah Hatherley Ymchwilydd
Researcher

Cofnodir y trafodion yn yr iaith y llefarwyd hwy ynddi yn y pwyllgor. Yn ogystal, cynhwysir trawsgrifiad o’r cyfieithu ar y pryd. Lle mae cyfranwyr wedi darparu cywiriadau i’w tystiolaeth, nodir y rheini yn y trawsgrifiad.

The proceedings are reported in the language in which they were spoken in the committee. In addition, a transcription of the simultaneous interpretation is included. Where contributors have supplied corrections to their evidence, these are noted in the transcript.

Cyfarfu’r pwyllgor drwy gynhadledd fideo.

Dechreuodd y cyfarfod am 09:31.

The committee met by video-conference.

The meeting began at 09:31. 

1. Cyflwyniad, ymddiheuriadau, dirprwyon a datgan buddiannau
1. Introductions, apologies, substitutions and declarations of interest

Bore da. Croeso, bawb. Welcome to the Health and Social Care Committee this morning, and a happy new year to all Members and all our stakeholders watching in as well. First of all, can I say that this is a completely virtual meeting this morning, being undertaken by video-conference, and the Standing Orders remain in place as they normally are?

I move to item 1 this morning. We have no apologies and, therefore, there are no substitutions. If there are any declarations of interest, please say now. There are none.

2. Cyllideb Ddrafft Llywodraeth Cymru ar gyfer 2022-23: sesiwn dystiolaeth gyda'r Gweinidog Iechyd a Gwasanaethau Cymdeithasol, y Dirprwy Weinidog Gwasanaethau Cymdeithasol a’r Dirprwy Weinidog Iechyd Meddwl a Llesiant
2. Welsh Government Draft Budget 2022-23: evidence session with the Minister for Health and Social Services, the Deputy Minister for Social Services and the Deputy Minister for Mental Health and Well-being

In that case, I move to item 2. Item 2 is in regard to our first item this morning, which is a particularly long item—it's two and a quarter hours, so we will have a break during this particular item at some point. This is scrutiny of the Welsh Government's draft budget for 2022-23, with the Ministers, who I'm about to introduce: the Minister, Eluned Morgan, Minister for Health and Social Services; Julie Morgan, the Deputy Minister for Social Services; and Lynne Neagle, Deputy Minister for Mental Health and Well-being. And there's a whole range of officials on the call this morning, who I shall ask to introduce themselves as and when they speak during the meeting. But I should like to just say a quick word to Albert Heaney, who I know was awarded a CBE for services to social care in the new year honours list, so congratulations, Albert, on that.

Thank you, Chair.

Congratulations indeed.

Okay. Is there anything else I need to say? No, I don't think there is, so, there we are. I'd just thank Ministers, of course, for their written evidence ahead of the session this morning. If I can dive in with the first question, perhaps more of a general question, to the Minister. Obviously, when you do your budget, you consult, as you do every year, with relevant stakeholders and so forth. Is there anything within the consultation responses that you received, taking those into account, are there any priorities that were listed by stakeholders that have not been addressed in your budget, and if so, what are they, Minister?

Thanks very much, and thanks for the opportunity to update the committee on our priorities in relation to the budget. You'll be aware that the vast majority of funding in the health and social services portfolio is allocated to NHS Wales, and, obviously, there are very many well-established fora for discussion and engagement with NHS colleagues, which help to inform that policy development, which determine the prioritisations and, ultimately, the budget allocations. So, we listen to what they are requesting and then we make some determinations on the basis of what they are requesting. These are regular meetings. They take place with the director of the NHS in Wales, Judith Paget, who's with us today. Also, obviously, there's a finance directors forum, there are deputy finance directors monthly meetings, and the Welsh NHS Confederation is also represented at the chief executive meetings. So, what we have is an annual planning cycle, and I think that's now well embedded. So, we set out our broad expectations, and then the boards present us with integrated medium-term plans for every NHS organisation. And so, we're waiting for those plans to be given to us; we've actually postponed them for a month or so because of the omicron situation. But that, hopefully then, will be in line with the allocation that they have requested and set out. But we also have our priorities and we want them to follow those priorities. So, that's generally how the system works.

09:35

So, if I've got this understanding right, this is the draft budget, but then your draft can be amended following the input that you've just talked about from health boards.

It's about emphasis. So, we've set out what the priorities should be. We've already said that to them a couple of months ago, just to say, 'Right, when you're developing your plans, your integrated medium-term plans, then these are the priorities we expect you to put in place.' They present us with the plans and then I approve the plans before they start spending that money.

Okay. And going back to my original question, you've set out the process, but, to date, including all your stakeholders—that's beyond the health boards as well—what priorities may have been presented to you that you haven't been able to include within the budget or consider within the budget?

I guess where there's a slight frustration not just from them but certainly from us as well is the limited amount of money we have available in terms of capital. So, that will be an area that is probably not where we want to be. So, that's going to be, I think, a challenge for the NHS this year. I don't know if my colleagues would like to talk a little bit about the engagement that they've had with some of the stakeholders.

Okay. I can see Steve Elliot wants to come in. If you just introduce yourself, Steve, and the specific question is on considerations that have been presented to you that you've not been able to include within the budget, or where stakeholders would have a concern with. Steve Elliot.

Thank you. I'm the director of finance for health and social services within Welsh Government. Yes, obviously, as the Minister has outlined, we do have quite extensive engagement with the health service. In terms of areas that have been flagged up from the NHS that will be an issue, we're aware that energy costs in particular across both the UK and the world have been increasing significantly, and that's an area that will be a risk going forward into this financial year that we will need to manage in line with the service, as well as, obviously, the ongoing impact of the pandemic and how that will continue to pan out over the next financial year and beyond. Thank you.

Okay. And so, Minister, are there any other key priorities that you think—? I can see Julie Morgan wants to come in. So, talking about key priorities that haven't been included or addressed in the budget from stakeholders.

The point that I wanted to make, really, was how extensively wide the consultation is, and, certainly, with regard to social care, there are extensive meetings with the voluntary sector, for example, and I meet personally with groups of carers, for example. So, there is a wide engagement beyond the official bodies.

And with that, if I can ask the question to Julie Morgan: in regard to the consultation with the voluntary groups, are there any key priorities that haven't been addressed in the budget from their perspective?

I think we've been able to respond to most of the things that they've asked, but perhaps it hasn't always been as much as we would want to. Because, as the Minister has said, we are limited by the amount of budget money that we have got.

Okay. Thank you. And in regard to the health and social care budget, in terms of the agreement between the Welsh Government and Plaid Cymru—the co-operation agreement—are there any particular aspects of the allocation that are relevant to the co-operation agreement or have been included as a result of the co-operation agreement?

09:40

There's only one new commitment in relation to the Plaid Cymru agreement, and that relates the childcare and early years, so I'll ask Julie, if you don't mind, to make some comments on that.

Yes, as the Minister said, childcare and early years is a major commitment in the agreement, and the money for this is included in the additional £30 million up to 2024-25. This will include supporting more families who are in education and training, because, at the moment, the childcare offer does not extend to those people who are in education and training. So, we've given a commitment to do that in the co-operation agreement, and we estimate that will cost about £15-20 million over the next three years. We're committed to paying an increase in the hourly rate for a number of our early childhood education and care programmes, including the childcare offer, and it's anticipated that that could cost in the region of £10 million annually. We're also going to expand Flying Start to two-year-olds, and that will be planned in conjunction with the early years sector, so we'll be working together with the early years sector to make that happen. That funding will be announced in due course, and I'll make sure that you're aware of the plans. Those are the main areas that are in the co-operation agreement.

It's probably worth just flagging up, as well, Russ, that we will continue to provide about £7 million towards meeting our commitment to establish a new medical school in north Wales. I know that was also a part of that agreement.

Thanks, Russell. Just to flag that, obviously, there is also a commitment in the co-operation agreement to pilot sanctuary provision for mental health for children and young people, but I'm sure we'll come on to that later.

Okay, thank you. Thanks, all, for those questions, there are a number of areas that I think Members will perhaps dig into later on in the session. Rhun ap Iorwerth.

Diolch yn fawr iawn a bore da i chi i gyd. Os gallaf i edrych ar gyllid i'r NHS yn benodol, rydyn ni'n gallu gweld yn y gyllideb fuddsoddiad ychwanegol o dros £800 miliwn ar gyfer gwasanaethau creiddiol yr NHS. Ydych chi'n gallu dweud wrthyn ni beth ydy'r blaenoriaethau ar gyfer y gwariant hwnnw a beth ydych chi'n disgwyl ei gael yn ôl, os liciwch chi, am yr £800 miliwn yna o ran allbynnau a gwelliannau?

Thank you very much. Good morning to all of you. If I can look at NHS funding specifically, we can see in the budget that there is additional investment of over £800 million for core NHS services. So, can you tell us what the priorities are for that expenditure and what do you expect to get in return, if you will, for that £800 million in outputs and improvements?

Diolch yn fawr. Mae recovery, wrth gwrs, yn bwysig tu hwnt, ac rŷn ni wedi sicrhau bod £170 miliwn wedi ei roi ar gyfer sicrhau ein bod ni yn mynd ati i daclo'r backlog yn arbennig, ac mae hwnna, wrth gwrs, ar ben y £0.25 biliwn, jest â bod, yr oeddem ni wedi ei wario'r llynedd ar geisio sicrhau ein bod ni mewn sefyllfa i ymdrin â'r backlog. Yna, ar ben hynny, mae tua £20 miliwn ar gyfer value-based approach to recovery, sy'n sicrhau ein bod ni yn gwneud pethau sy'n bwysig i'r cleifion, ac mae hwnna hefyd yn bwysig.

Rhai o'r pethau eraill yw cofio bod COVID yn dal i fod gyda ni, felly mae'n rhaid inni sicrhau bod arian ar gael ar gyfer hynny. Mae eisiau inni hefyd ystyried y bydd angen talu ac ystyried chwyddiant, a faint o arian, efallai, yn ychwanegol y bydd yn rhaid talu i'r staff ac ati. Felly, mae'r rheini i gyd yn rhai o'r blaenoriaethau rŷn ni wedi eu hystyried ymysg yr £824 miliwn ychwanegol yna.

Thank you very much. Recovery, of course, is very important, and we have ensured that £170 million has been allocated to ensuring that we tackle the backlog in particular, and that, of course, is in addition to the £0.25 billion that we spent last year to ensure that we are in a situation to deal with that backlog. On top of that, around £20 million is for a value-based approach to recovery that ensures that we do things that are important to the patient, and that's also important.

Another thing to remember is that COVID is still with us, so we do have to ensure that funding is available for that. We also have to consider pay and inflation, and how much additional funding we will need to allocate to pay staff, and so on. So, those are all some of the priorities that we have considered amongst that £824 million of additional expenditure.

Diolch am y trosolwg cyffredinol yna, ac yn amlwg mae ymateb i'r pandemig, fel rydych chi wedi dweud, yn rhan ohono fo. Rydych chi wedi cyfeirio at COVID-19, ac fe wnaf i jest ofyn cwestiwn ar hynny. Does yna ddim arian penodol yn cael ei glustnodi o fewn y gyllideb ar gyfer COVID-19. Pa mor hyderus ydych chi fod yna, o fewn y gyllideb, ddigon o gapasiti a hefyd ddigon o hyblygrwydd i allu ymateb i unrhyw heriau newydd COVID-19 a allai ddod i'n hwynebu ni yn y flwyddyn nesaf?

Thank you very much for that general overview, and, clearly, responding to the pandemic, as you've said, is part of that. You've referred to COVID-19, and I'll just as a question on that. There is no specific funding earmarked within the budget for COVID-19. So, how confident are you that there is sufficient capacity and sufficient flexibility within the budget to be able to respond to any new challenges with regard to COVID-19 that could face us over the coming year?

09:45

Mae syniad gyda ni o ran mwy neu lai lle rŷn ni'n ystyried, jest wrth ystyried ble rŷn ni wedi bod yn gwario ar PPE, er enghraifft, yn y gorffennol, a'r vaccinations a'r test, trace and protect. So, mae'r rhain i gyd yn mynd i gario ymlaen, yn amlwg. Beth dŷn ni ddim yn gwybod yw am ba mor hir mae'r rheini'n gorfod cario ymlaen, ac wrth gwrs, mae hwn yn gyllideb sy'n para am dair blynedd. Felly, yn amlwg, mae beth byddwn ni'n gwario eleni efallai'n mynd i fod yn wahanol i beth sy'n cael ei wario blwyddyn nesaf. Y peth arall i ystyried yw'r ffordd rŷn ni'n gwario fe, achos rŷn ni wedi bod lot fwy effeithiol o ran faint rŷn ni wedi'i wario, er enghraifft, ar PPE o gymharu gyda Lloegr, ac mae hwnna'n golygu wedyn, os nad ydyn ni'n gwario'r arian yna, gallwn ni sianelu'r arian ychwanegol yna i mewn i bethau eraill tu fewn i'r NHS. So, mae yna rywfaint o hyblygrwydd, ac yn amlwg, os byddwn ni'n gweld omicron arall neu os byddwn ni mewn sefyllfa anodd, bydd hwnna efallai'n cyfyngu ar beth y gallwn ni ei wneud tu fewn i'r NHS. Felly, mae'n rhaid i ni gael yr hyblygrwydd yma i allu ymateb. Y peth arall, wrth gwrs, yw pe byddem ni'n gweld ton arall, mae'n hollol bosibl y byddem ni'n gweld mwy o arian yn dod o gyfeiriad y Llywodraeth Brydeinig. Felly, mae hwnna hefyd yn rhywbeth i ni ei ystyried. 

We do have an idea more or less of where we're considering, just in considering where we have been spending on PPE, for example, in the past, and on vaccinations and test, trace and protect. So, all of those things are going to continue, clearly. What we don't know is for how long they will have to continue, and of course, this is a budget that lasts for three years. Clearly, what we will spend this year might be different to what will be spent in the next year. Another thing to consider is the way that we spend that money, because we have been much more efficient and effective in terms of how much we've spent on PPE as compared to England. And that means then that if we don't spend that money we can channel that additional funding into other things within the NHS. So, there is some flexibility there, and clearly if we do see another omicron or if we are in a difficult position, that might limit what we can do within the NHS. So, we do need to have that flexibility that I mentioned to be able to respond. The other thing, of course, is if we were to see another wave, it is entirely possible that we would be seeing additional funding coming from the UK Government. So, that too is something for us to bear in mind.

Yn ôl â ni, te, at y darlun ehangach. Rydych chi'n dweud bod yna wariant tair blynedd yn cael ei amlinellu yn y gyllideb yma. A gawn ni o bosib feddwl y tu hwnt i hynny hefyd? Rydych chi'n sôn am sut mae arian yn cael ei glustnodi ar gyfer recovery, a bod y mwyaf llethol ohono fo, 94 y cant ohono fo, yn mynd tuag at wasanaethau creiddiol yr NHS. Yn lle, te, ydyn ni'n gallu adnabod yn y gyllideb yma yr arian sydd yn wirioneddol yn mynd i olygu nad ydym ni'n dod yn ôl i'r pwynt yma flwyddyn ar ôl blwyddyn ar ôl blwyddyn—yr arian sydd yn trawsnewid yr NHS ac yn cryfhau ac yn creu gwydnwch o fewn yr NHS ar gyfer y dyfodol? Achos mae'n anodd gweld hynny pan mae cymaint o'r swm, i bob pwrpas, wedi'i glustnodi ar gyfer busnes bob dydd yr NHS rŵan yn delio efo'r mynydd o broblemau sydd ganddo fo.

Returning to that wider picture, you said that there is a three-year expenditure outlined in this budget. Thinking beyond that too, you talk about how funding is earmarked for recovery, and that the vast majority of the funding, 94 per cent of it, is going to the core services of the NHS. So, where can we identify in this budget the funding that's truly going to mean that we don't return to this point year after year after year—the funding that transforms the NHS, strengthens it and provides that resilience for the NHS for the future? Because it's difficult to see that when so much of the funding has been earmarked for the everyday business of the NHS, dealing with this heap of problems that it faces.

Un o'r pethau dŷn ni wedi trio ei wneud yn glir i'r gwasanaeth iechyd yw ein bod ni ddim yn disgwyl gweld gwaith fel arfer yn digwydd. Mae'r pandemig wedi rhoi cyfleoedd i ni wneud pethau'n wahanol, ac mae'n bwysig ein bod ni'n cydio yn rheini ac yn dal gafael yn rheini. Ond hefyd, rŷn ni'n aros i glywed oddi wrth yr IMTPs yma beth yw eu cynlluniau nhw. Dwi'n gwybod bod diddordeb mawr mewn datblygu, er enghraifft, hubs mwy rhanbarthol. Felly, dŷn ni'n aros i glywed sut mae'r byrddau iechyd wedi dod ynghyd i ddweud, 'Reit, beth dylen ni ei wneud yw rhywbeth gwahanol, achos gallwn ni ddim jest cario ymlaen i wneud yr hyn rŷn ni wedi bod yn ei wneud yn y gorffennol.'

One of the things that we've tried to make clear to the health service is that we don't expect to see business as usual. The pandemic has given us an opportunity to do things differently, and it's important that we grasp those opportunities. But also, we're waiting to hear from the integrated medium-term plans what their plans are. I know that there's a great deal of interest in developing hubs on a more regional basis. So, we are waiting to hear how the health boards have come together to say, 'Right, what we should be doing is something slightly different because we can't continue with business as usual and doing what we've done in the past.'

Ond, â ninnau'n sgrwtineiddio'r gyllideb yn benodol, pwyntiwch fi—neu'ch swyddogion chi—at y rhannau o'r gyllideb sydd yn trawsnewid yr NHS i rywbeth sydd yn mynd i fod yn fwy gwydn ac yn fwy cynaliadwy.

But as we're scrutinising the budget specifically here, would you or your officials point me to the parts of the budget that transform the NHS to something that is going to be more resilient and sustainable? 

Wel, mae'r £170 miliwn yna—. Mae'r arian bob dydd, hynny yw yr £8 biliwn sydd eisoes yna—hwnna yw'r arian bob dydd. Mae'r £170 miliwn yma'n arian ychwanegol ar ben yr £8 biliwn rŷn ni fel arfer yn ei wario ar y gwaith creiddiol yna roeddech chi'n sôn amdano.

Well, the £170 million that I've mentioned—. The everyday funding, the £8 billion that is already there—that is the everyday funding. This £170 million is additional funding on top of that £8 billion that we usually spend on that core work of the NHS. 

Ydych chi'n cydnabod bod y £170 miliwn yn bell iawn, iawn, iawn, iawn o'r math o fuddsoddiad sydd angen ei wneud er mwyn trawsnewid yr NHS, a thrawsnewid iechyd Cymru drwy iechyd cyhoeddus ac yn y blaen?

Do you acknowledge that the £170 million is far, far, far from being the kind of investment that we need to transform the NHS and transform the health of Wales through public health and so on?

Mae wastad scope am fwy o arian ac i ni ddefnyddio mwy o arian, ond mae'n rhaid i chi gofio rŷn ni wedi gwneud addewid ein bod ni'n mynd i wario £1 biliwn ar recovery yn ystod cwrs y Senedd yma. Bydd hwn yn cymryd ni lan at tua £800 miliwn o gyrraedd y £1 biliwn yna. A'r peth arall mae'n rhaid i chi gofio yw y gallwch chi ddim troi rhai o'r pethau yma ymlaen dros nos. Staff sy'n bwysig yn yr NHS. Mae'n rhaid i chi ystyried bod rhaid i chi hyfforddi staff; dyw e ddim yn rhywbeth y gallwch chi droi ymlaen dros nos. Felly, mae’n rhaid ichi adeiladu a chael strategaeth sy’n glir o ran o ble ŷch chi’n mynd. Byddwch chi wedi gweld jest cyn 'Dolig ei bod ni wedi rhoi buddsoddiad sylweddol—bron i £0.25 biliwn yn fanna—ar hyfforddi pobl fel ein bod ni yn gallu gwario’r arian yma ar bethau sy’n mynd i fod yn drawsnewidiol.

There is always scope for additional funding and for us to use additional funding, but you have to remember that we've made a promise that we're going to spend £1 billion on recovery during this Senedd term. This will take up to around £800 million in reaching that £1 billion of expenditure. And the other thing that you have to remember is that you can't just switch these things on overnight. It's staff that's important in the NHS. You have to consider that you have to train staff. It's not something that you can do overnight. So, you have to build and have a clear strategy in terms of the direction of travel. As you will have seen before Christmas, we have provided additional significant investment—there's almost £0.25 billion there—on training people so that we can spend this funding on those transformative things.

09:50

Dywedwn ni ein bod ni’n derbyn bod y £1 biliwn yna—i roi ffigur crwn, y recovery—yn rhywbeth sy’n angenrheidiol oherwydd ein bod wedi wynebu pandemig, ydy hynny’n £1 biliwn y byddech chi fel Gweinidog yn tybio y gallech chi ei wario’n wirioneddol ar drawsnewid mewn blynyddoedd pan rydym ni wedi gwneud y recovery yna? Achos dyna’r math o fuddsoddiad rydym ni eisiau. Ai dyna sut rydych chi’n meddwl yn yr hirdymor?

Say if we accept that that £1 billion—to give that figure to it, in terms of recovery—is something that is vital because of the pandemic, is that £1 billion that you as Minister would perceive that you could spend on transformation when we have achieved that recovery? Because that's the kind of investment that we need. Is that the long-term view?

Dwi’n rili awyddus i wneud yn siŵr taw beth sydd ddim gyda ni yw big white elephants ar ddiwedd hwn chwaith. So, beth dwi ddim eisiau gweld yw ein bod ni’n mynd ati i symud y waiting lists yma yn gyflym, ond bod gyda ni ganolfannau fydd ddim yn cael eu defnyddio yn y pen draw. Felly mae’n rhaid i ni wneud yn siŵr bod y balans yna’n iawn, a beth dwi’n awyddus i’w wneud yw gwneud yn siŵr ein bod ni’n gwario cymaint o’r arian yma ag sy’n bosibl tu mewn i’r sector cyhoeddus, achos dyna yw’r sialens arall. Yn aml, beth sy’n digwydd yw rŷn ni’n cael arian ar ddiwedd blwyddyn, ac mae’n anodd wedyn i wario’r arian ar ddiwedd blwyddyn. Felly beth rydyn ni’n trio ei wneud yw rhoi cyfeiriad i’r byrddau iechyd fel eu bod nhw’n gallu cynllunio a’u bod nhw ddim yn gorfod troi pethau ymlaen yn gyflym tu mewn i flwyddyn ariannol.

I'm really eager to see that we don't have white elephants at the end of this. So, what I want to see is that we really do tackle these waiting lists swiftly, but that we don't have those white elephants that aren't used in future. So, we need to strike that right balance, and what I'm eager to do is to ensure that we spend as much of this money as possible within the public sector, because that's the other challenge. Often, what happens is that we receive funding at the end of the year, and it's very difficult then to spend that money at the end of the financial year. So what we're trying to do here is to give direction to the health boards so that they can plan and they don't have to turn things on quickly within a financial year.

Diolch yn fawr iawn. Os cawn ni droi at berfformiad—

Thank you very much. If we can turn to the performance—

Rhun, do you mind if Jack just comes in quickly before you move on? Jack Sargeant.

Diolch yn fawr, Gadeirydd. Weinidog, the Petitions Committee on Monday took a consideration of a petition calling for the increased funding of women’s health services specifically. Obviously, we didn’t have the detail of the budget on Monday. Can you confirm today whether there has been an increase in funding for women’s health services, or whether there will be? Obviously, that includes research, education, and the very important topic of public awareness.

Thanks very much, Jack. We don’t tend to silo money in that way within the health service. I know later on today we’ll be talking to the children’s committee, and they’ll be asking us here, 'Have you ring-fenced money for children?' It’s not the way we do things in the NHS. But what I can tell you, Jack, is that this is absolutely an area that I’m focused on. In fact, we were hoping, before Christmas, to announce the fact that we are developing a women’s health proposal, and hopefully that will be developed. But, obviously, omicron got in the way. So, we’ll be giving more information on that very shortly, and I know there’s a huge amount of interest in that. So, I can give you that commitment.

I'm very aware that I’m the first woman health Minister in a long time, so I really want to make sure that we’re putting our stamp and understanding that, actually, there are issues that we need to consider, and that lots of the research is done by men, for men. I’m very, very keen to step back to make sure that we are focusing our attention. For example, women’s heart disease—there’s fascinating information there in a space that I wasn’t aware of until recently. But I think we need to just put a real focus on some of these things. So, you’ve got my commitment that we’ll be doing that. But I’m not keen to do ring-fencing for women. Imagine how complicated that might be.

We might come back to that later in the session. Rhun ap Iorwerth.

Diolch yn fawr iawn, Gadeirydd. Jest am ofyn ychydig o gwestiynau ynglŷn â pherfformiad cyllidebol a rheolaeth gyllidebol gan y byrddau iechyd oeddwn i. Yn y flwyddyn ariannol bresennol mae dau fwrdd iechyd wedi bod yn adrodd eu bod nhw’n disgwyl gorwario. Mae hynny’n cynnwys y gorwario gan Hywel Dda a Bae Abertawe, er bod yna arian sylweddol yn gysylltiedig â Betsi Cadwaladr hefyd. Beth ydy agwedd y Llywodraeth tuag at reoli'r gorwario yna gan fyrddau?

Thank you very much, Chair. I just wanted to ask a few questions with regard to financial performance and financial management by the health boards. In the current financial year two health boards have been reporting that they project an overspend. That includes the overspend in Hywel Dda and Swansea Bay, even though significant money is connected to Betsi Cadwaladr as well. What is the approach to managing that overspend?

09:55

Roedden ni wedi rhagweld ein bod ni'n mynd i weld gorwario, ac felly rŷn ni wedi rhoi arian heibio yn y gyllideb yma i’w helpu nhw drwy’r broses yna. Ond rŷn ni wedi ei wneud yn hollol glir i’r byrddau iechyd yna bod hyn ddim yn system sy'n gynaliadwy, a dyw e ddim yn deg ar fyrddau iechyd eraill sydd yn gwneud y peth iawn ac yn cadw tu fewn eu cyllidebau nhw. So, beth sy'n digwydd nawr yw bod pob gwasanaeth iechyd a phob bwrdd iechyd yn paratoi eu integrated medium-term plans nhw ar gyfer y tair blynedd nesaf, ac mi fydd yna ddisgwyliad y bydd yn rhaid iddyn nhw ddisgrifio sut y maen nhw'n mynd i ddod mewn i sefyllfa lle na fyddan nhw'n dod atom ni am fwy o arian yn y dyfodol. Achos dyw hi ddim yn deg, dwi ddim yn meddwl, bod pob un arall yn bihafio, ond bod un neu ddau ddim yn llwyddo i weithio tu fewn y cyfyngiadau rŷn ni wedi'u rhoi.

We had foreseen that we would see that overspend, so we have set aside funding in this budget to help them through that process. But we have made it very clear to those health boards that this isn't a sustainable system, and it isn't fair on health boards that are doing the right thing and are keeping within their budget. So, what is happening now is that every health service and every health board is preparing their integrated medium-term plans for the next three years, and there will be an expectation that they will have to describe how they are going to reach a situation where they won't be approaching us for additional funding in future. Because it isn't fair, I don't think, that everybody else behaves, but one or two don't succeed in working within the limits that we've set.

Ac os nad ydyn nhw'n gallu eich argyhoeddi chi bod y cynlluniau yn gadarn ganddyn nhw, neu os, yn ystod y flwyddyn ariannol nesaf, mae'n ymddangos nad ydyn nhw'n gallu cadw at y cynlluniau hynny, beth ydy'r camau? Mesurau arbennig ac ymyrraeth ychwanegol gan y Llywodraeth yn y ffordd yna?

And if they can't convince you that they have robust plans, or if, during the next financial year, it appears that they can't adhere to those plans, what are the next steps? Special measures and additional intervention in that way? 

Beth sy'n digwydd yw bod ein swyddogion ni'n cymryd diddordeb mawr nawr yn y ffordd y mae'r byrddau iechyd yn ymddwyn, yn arbennig y rheini, efallai, sydd mewn sefyllfa lle nad ydyn nhw'n edrych fel eu bod nhw'n mynd i weithio tu fewn i'r pecyn ariannol rŷn ni wedi'i roi iddyn nhw. Felly, fe fyddai yna fwy o fonitro o'r rheini, ac mi fyddai Steve a phobl yn cwrdd â nhw yn fwy aml. Dwi ddim yn gwybod—

What happens is that our officials take a very close interest in the way that the health boards operate, particularly those that have been in a situation where they don't look as if they will be able to work within the financial package that we have provided to them. So, there will be additional monitoring of those, and Steve and other officials will be meeting them more often. I don't know—

Steve, I don't know if you'd like to add to that.

Thank you, Minister. I think it's worth saying that we've had quite a significant process of intervention over a number of years for those organisations that have been reporting deficits. We've undertaken financial governance reviews, and also, more recently, financial planning reviews. Two or three years ago we established a finance delivery unit to provide extra capacity for us within Welsh Government, and the NHS, to work more closely with organisations that are struggling. I think our approach now is much more a challenge and support process. We have very regular engagement with all organisations, because there are two that are continuing to report deficits, but every organisation, obviously, has its own financial challenges. As the Minister says, I think through the IMTP process we'll be particularly looking to Hywel Dda and Swansea Bay, and how we can work with them and support them to deliver a three-year plan that will bring them back into financial sustainability. Thank you.

Diolch yn fawr iawn am hynny. Dwi'n meddwl bod Joyce Watson eisiau holi cwestiwn ynglŷn â Hywel Dda yn benodol, ond onid oes yna achos i feddwl, yn enwedig, o bosibl, yn edrych ar Betsi Cadwaladr a Hywel Dda, sydd yn fyrddau eithaf tebyg, bod yna rywbeth o'i le yn y baseline sy'n cael ei osod ar eu cyfer nhw? Dwi'n meddwl am Betsi Cadwaladr, er enghraifft, fel bwrdd sydd yn gweld ymchwydd enfawr yn y boblogaeth mae o'n ei gwasanaethu yn ystod tymhorau gwyliau, ac sydd â phoblogaeth llawer hŷn na phoblogaeth gyfartaledd Cymru. Onid ydy hi, o bosibl, yn amser i edrych, Weinidog neu swyddogion—? Ydy'r disgwyliadau ar y byrddau hynny yn deg?

Thank you very much for that. I think that Joyce Watson wants to ask a question about Hywel Dda specifically, but isn't there a case to think, especially looking at Betsi Cadwaladr and Hywel Dda, which are relatively similar boards, that there is something wrong in the baseline that is set for them? I'm thinking of Betsi Cadwaladr as a board that sees a huge increase in the population it serves during the holiday period, and that has a far older population than the average for Wales. Isn't it time to look, Minister or officials, at this? Are the expectations on these boards fair?

Rŷn ni wedi bod yn gwneud lot o waith ar hwn dros y blynyddoedd, ac rŷn ni mewn sefyllfa lle rŷn ni yn ystyried deprivation, rŷn ni yn ystyried rurality, er enghraifft—mae yna bob math o fesurau mewn lle sydd yn ceisio cael y balans yn iawn. Ond dwi'n gwybod, yn achos Hywel Dda, er enghraifft, mi gawson ni archwiliad gan KPMG neu rywun a ddaeth mewn,FootnoteLink yn edrych ar beth sy'n deg o ran baseline, ac rŷn ni wedi, wedyn, addasu'r baseline i roi £27 miliwn yn ychwanegol, sy'n deall, felly, eu bod nhw mewn sefyllfa ychydig yn wahanol. Ond beth sydd ddim yn dderbyniol yw ein bod ni'n newid y baseline a'u bod nhw'n dal mewn deficit. So, mae'n rhaid i ni jest wneud yn siŵr ein bod ni yn y lle iawn.

We have been doing a great deal of work on this over the years, and we are in a situation where we are considering deprivation, we're considering rurality, for example. There are all kinds of measures in place that try to help us strike that balance. I know that, in the case of Hywel Dda, for example, we had an inspection by KPMG or somebody else who came in to look at what is fair in terms of that baseline.FootnoteLink Then we've adapted that baseline to give an additional £27 million to take into account that they are in a slightly different situation. But what isn't acceptable is that we change the baseline and they continue to be in a deficit. So, we do have to ensure that we are in the right place.

I don't know if, Judith, you've got anything you'd like to add to that?

10:00

Thank you, Minister. Yes. I think they're important points. The formula that we use is revised every so often to ensure that it maintains fairness and equity in our approach. And, as the Minister has said, in particular in relation to Betsi Cadwaladr, we've provided additional funding for a period of, I think it was, three and a half years, and Hywel Dda has been given additional resources to support its baseline in recognition of that review. Clearly, we keep the situation under review, making sure that organisations feel appropriately supported but also challenged to improve their performance as well. So, I think we do try to keep that balanced approach and, as Steve has said, we'll keep close to the organisations now, all of the organisations in Wales, as they submit their plans for the next three years, to look at the impact of that, the impact on their own local populations and what we can do to encourage, support and challenge where necessary.  

Diolch yn fawr iawn, Cadeirydd. Dwi'n meddwl bod Joyce Watson wedi gobeithio gallu dod i mewn yn fan hyn. 

Thank you, Chair. I believe Joyce Watson wants to come in at this point. 

Thank you. Good morning, everybody. I've been a Member of the Senedd now for near on 15 years, and it is the case that Hywel Dda have been in debt all of that time. We know it's historic, but we're here again, and obviously Betsi Cadwaladr as well. So, my obvious question is this: I've heard everything that you've said, so I'm not going to run through that again, but how likely is it that this situation is going to be resolved within this three-year window of financial management by Hywel Dda? And, adding to the question that Rhun highlighted for Betsi Cadwaladr, we are now seeing a rapid increase in the number of people who come to Pembrokeshire throughout the holiday season, and that in itself is expanding. I don't know whether there has been a reassessment more generally to make sure that that figure is realistic, because it just puts pressure on everybody, not just the people who are managing the budget, but the people who are trying to deliver those services as well. And that's not a good place for the staff, going forward. 

Thanks, Joyce. Well, what I know is that the health board is developing a road map for sustainability, which will underpin this three-year plan. And I think it's really important that we, and they, acknowledge that their deficit is largely driven by a service model where there is some duplication of some services, such as medical intakes across four sites, the number of beds compared to the average across Wales. It is more difficult. Obviously, you know the noise around this, if you were to say, 'Well, actually, proportionately, that's not a right balance but actually, geographically, it's difficult to cover those areas.' So, we do have to just bear that in mind, that there are political decisions that we've made here that we, as a Government, have determined.

I think the other issue to bear in mind is workforce challenges, and they're looking to address that through the 'A Healthier Mid and West Wales' strategy. And I think it's part of the solution, maybe, to address that service duplication through a new hospital for west Wales. But we're waiting, again, to hear formally and officially from the health board on that.  

Yes, if I could just add, around the issue that Members have raised around summer visitors to both Hywel Dda and Betsi Cadwaladr areas, just to confirm that there are financial mechanisms in place for health boards to recover costs if tourists become ill while they're in that area and need treatment in their hospitals. So, those costs would be picked up in addition to the funding that comes from Welsh Government. Thank you.

10:05

Diolch yn fawr. Cwestiwn nawr—mae'n bosib bod hyn yn gysylltiedig—ynglŷn ag arian sy'n cael ei gadw wrth gefn. Dwi'n meddwl bod tystiolaeth ysgrifenedig Llywodraeth Cymru yn dweud bod arian yn cael ei ddal yn ganolog i gefnogi'r diffygion sy'n parhau ym mae Abertawe ac yn Hywel Dda. Faint sydd yn cael ei ddal wrth gefn, ac oes yna arian yn cael ei ddal wrth gefn i gyfro diffygion posib yn 2022-23? 

Thank you very much. A question now—and perhaps this is related—regarding the reserves. I know that written evidence from the Welsh Government states that funding is being kept centrally to support the deficits in Swansea bay and Hywel Dda. So, how much is held in reserve, and is funding being reserved to cover the possible deficits in 2022-23? 

Rŷm ni'n dal yn ôl tua £50 miliwn yn y MEG i sicrhau bod y deficits yna yn gallu cael eu cyfro ar gyfer Hywel Dda ac Abertawe. Ond dŷn ni ddim yn dal unrhyw reserves arall yn ôl ar gyfer unrhyw potential deficits eraill mewn unrhyw fan arall. 

We hold around £50 million in the MEG to ensure that those deficits can be covered for Hywel Dda and Swansea bay. But we don't hold any other reserves for any other potential deficits in any other place. 

Ac un cwestiwn arall sy'n gysylltiedig, am wn i, ac mae'n gysylltiedig efo cwestiwn wnes i ofyn yn gynharach, a dweud y gwir: sut ydych chi fel Gweinidog yn mynd i wneud yn siŵr bod byrddau iechyd yn gwario'r arian maen nhw'n fod i'w wario ar drawsnewid gwasanaethau ar wneud hynny, yn hytrach nag i jest dalu am gario ymlaen i wneud y pethau maen nhw'n eu gwneud ar hyn o bryd? 

Another question that is related to this, and, actually, it's related to an earlier question that I asked is this: how are you as Minister going to ensure that health boards spend the money that they are supposed to spend on transforming services on that specific purpose, rather than just paying to continue with what they're doing at the moment? 

Dyna beth fyddwn ni'n edrych arno yn eu IMTPs nhw, yn eu cynlluniau nhw. Fe fyddwn ni'n edrych mewn manylder. Os byddan nhw'n cynnig gwneud mwy o'r un peth, mi fyddwn ni yn gallu jest anfon y cynlluniau nôl ond gweithio gyda nhw i addasu'r cynlluniau yna. Dwi'n meddwl ei bod hi'n bwysig mai nhw sydd biau'r cynlluniau yma. Rŷm ni wedi gwneud yn glir ac rydym ni wedi setio allan y blaenoriaethau rŷm ni eisiau eu gweld, ac mae rhai o'r rhain—. Maen nhw i gyd yn edrych at y dyfodol, ac felly fe fydd yna ddisgwyliad iddyn nhw i ymateb i'r hyn rŷm ni wedi gofyn iddyn nhw wneud. Os na fyddan nhw, wrth gwrs, fe allwn ni wedyn weithio gyda nhw i newid eu cynlluniau nhw. 

That's what we'll be looking at in their integrated medium-term plans. We'll be looking in detail. If they propose to do more of the same, then we will be able to send the plans back but work with them, too, to adapt the plans. I think it's important that it's them who take ownership of these plans. We've made it clear and we've set out the priorities that we want to see, and they are all looking to the future. So, there will be an expectation to respond to what we have asked them to do, and, if they don't, we can just work with them to adapt their plans. 

Ac yn olaf gen i, arbedion effeithiolrwydd rydach chi'n chwilio amdanyn nhw, a dwi'n mynd i ofyn dau gwestiwn gwahanol. Y disgwyliad, yn ôl eich papur tystiolaeth chi, ydy y dylai sefydliadau'r NHS gynllunio i ddelifro tua 1.5 y cant o arbedion effeithlonrwydd fel lleiafrif, ac i gario ymlaen i wneud hynny mewn blynyddoedd wedyn. O ystyried bod nifer o fyrddau iechyd wedi methu â delifro hynny dros y blynyddoedd diwethaf, ydy'r targed hwnnw yn rhy uchelgeisiol? Ond, i'w droi o ar ei ben, ydy o'n hanner digon faint rydyn ni angen bod yn chwilio amdano fo go iawn mewn arbedion effeithlonrwydd er mwyn sefydlogi’r NHS ar gyfer yr hirdymor? 

Finally from me, you're seeking efficiency savings, and I'm going to ask two different questions. There's an expectation, according to your evidence paper, that NHS organisations should plan to deliver around 1.5 per cent of efficiency savings as a minimum, and to continue to do so in following years. Considering that a number of health boards have failed to deliver that over the past years, is that target too ambitious? But then, to turn that around, is it even close to being enough in terms of what we should be seeking with regard to efficiency savings in order to stabilise the NHS for the future?  

Dwi'n meddwl bod sicrhau eu bod nhw'n fwy effeithiol yn hollol bwysig, a dyna pam, i fi, mae'n hollbwysig ein bod ni'n rhoi hwn i fewn. Dŷn ni ddim wedi rhoi cymaint o bwysau arnyn nhw eleni ag y byddem ni mewn blwyddyn typical, ond, er hynny, maen nhw'n dal wedi gallu gwneud gwerth £110 miliwn o arbedion yn ystod y flwyddyn ariannol yma, ac mae hwnna'n ddwbl beth roedden nhw wedi llwyddo i'w wneud llynedd. So, mae hwnna tua 1.5 y cant o'r gyllideb. Felly, maen nhw wedi llwyddo i'w wneud e eleni, ac mae eleni wedi bod yn flwyddyn eithaf tyff. So, dwi ddim yn meddwl ei fod e'n gofyn gormod am 1.5 y cant. I suppose y cwestiwn wedyn yw: pam nad ewch chi ymhellach? Dwi'n ymwybodol dros ben fod yna bwysau aruthrol wedi bod ar y bobl yma dros y flwyddyn ddiwethaf yma. Dwi'n meddwl bod yn rhaid i ni eu gwthio nhw, ond dwi ddim eisiau eu gwthio nhw'n rhy bell fel eu bod nhw'n 'topple-o'. Felly, mae cael y balans yma'n iawn yn anodd dros ben. 

I think that ensuring that they are more effective and efficient is vital, and that's why, for me, it is crucial that we do include this target. We haven't put as much pressure on them this year as we would have in a typical year, but, despite that, they have still been able to make £110 million-worth of savings during this financial year, and that is twice what they'd managed to do in the previous year. So, that's around 1.5 per cent of the budget. So, they've succeeded in doing that this year, and this year has been quite a tough year. So, I don't think it is asking too much for 1.5 per cent. I suppose the question then is: why don't you go further? I am very aware that there's been huge pressure on these people over the past year. I think we do have to push them, but I don't want to push them too far so that they topple. So, I think that striking that balance is very difficult.  

Ac am wn i, beth dwi'n gyfeirio ato fo ydy arbedion drwy drawsnewid, onid e? Hynny ydy, mi ddylem ni fod yn anelu nid i drio gwario mwy a mwy a mwy ar iechyd, ond i wario llai a llai a llai. Dwi'n cofio un cyn-Weinidog Llafur yn fy meirniadu i am ddweud y byddwn i'n licio gwario llai ar iechyd. Nid eisiau torri cyllideb iechyd oeddwn i fel llefarydd iechyd fy mhlaid ar y pryd, ond eisiau inni fod mewn sefyllfa lle dydyn ni ddim yn gorfod gwario cymaint ar y stwff drud.

I suppose what I'm referring to is savings through transformation. So, we should be aiming not to spend more and more and more, but spending less and less. I remember one previous Labour Minister criticising me for saying that I'd like to spend less on health. I didn't want to cut health budgets as health spokesperson for my party at the time, but I wanted us to be in a situation where we didn't have to spend so much on the expensive stuff.

10:10

I fi, rhan bwysig o hynny, felly, yw ein bod ni'n edrych ar prevention a'n bod ni'n gwario mwy o arian ar prevention. Mae hwnna'n sicr yn rhywbeth dwi wedi gofyn iddyn nhw wneud—mae'n rhaid i ni ddysgu gwersi o'r pandemig yma. Fel gwnaethoch chi gyfeirio ato yn y drafodaeth ddoe yn y Senedd, os nad ydyn ni'n mynd ati i wneud rywbeth gwirioneddol i daclo’r anghydraddoldeb, wedyn fe fyddwn ni yn cario ymlaen yn yr un sefyllfa, a'r un bobl fydd yn dod nôl at yr NHS dro ar ôl tro. So, i fi, mae hwnna'n hollbwysig hefyd o ran ble mae'n blaenoriaethau ni. Ydy hwnna'n efficiency? Dwi'n meddwl ei fod e, yn y pen draw, ond efallai wnewch chi ddim gweld yr arian yn dod nôl y flwyddyn yma neu'r flwyddyn nesaf.

For me, an important part of that is that we look at prevention and that we spend more on the preventative agenda. That's certainly something that I've asked them to do, to ensure that we do learn lessons from this pandemic. As you mentioned in the debate yesterday in the Senedd, if we don't do something to genuinely tackle inequality, then we will continue to be in this situation and it will be the same people calling on the NHS's services time after time. So, for me, I think that's vital in terms of where our priorities lie. Is that an efficiency? Yes, I think it is, ultimately, but perhaps you won't see the funding coming back this year or the next year.

Diolch, Weinidog. Diolch, Gadeirydd.

Thank you, Minister. Thank you, Chair.

Thank you, Rhun. Mike, you wanted to come in. Mike Hedges.

Lots of other organisations outside health have made substantial reductions in their fixed costs—things like LED lighting, things like reducing the cost of agency staff. I know that nursing agency staff is a huge cost in the NHS, and I also know that different health boards are more efficient in different areas than others. Though I haven't got the numbers in front of me, if every health board in each area was as efficient as the best, we'd have huge savings. The 1.5 per cent would be a very small saving, which could be done. How are you going to ensure that every health board in each area does as well as the best are doing?

Thanks very much, Mike. This is something that I'm very keen to do a lot more of, and that is to get health boards to benchmark against each other. I'm really keen to see a lot more of that going on. Part of the issue there is to make sure that we're measuring apples and apples, rather than apples and pears. So, we've got to get the data right first, otherwise they all complain at the end, 'Well, we weren't measuring the same things.' So, we just need to make sure we've got the baseline in place, but that is definitely a direction that I've made it clear that I'm very keen to go down, particularly when it comes to waiting lists. How is it that some consultants managed to get through eight cataracts a day and some managed to get through three? I think we do need to be doing a lot more of that benchmarking in terms of efficiency and ensuring that we're getting the very best and very most out of people.

Can I just say I agree entirely? If you read a Nuffield report from 2010, it shows a huge reduction across the health service in England and Wales, but especially in Wales, in the number of people dealt with per consultant.

Thank you, Chair. Minister, if we could look at the issue of addressing waiting times, if we may, obviously, the pre-pandemic level of waiting times was in a situation that was already struggling. Clearly, because of the pandemic, that has significantly grown and the struggle is real now. Your evidence to the committee, in written evidence, says the budget contains £170 million of revenue funding recurrently from 2022-23 onwards to tackle this issue. Can I just ask what impact you think that investment will have and are you confident it will deliver what is needed to reduce this backlog?

Jack, I'm very aware that, once this pandemic intensity that we're going through at the moment is over, the focus is going to shift very, very quickly onto clearing those backlogs. So, I have made it clear, and I know Judith has made it clear on my behalf to the service, that, 'You need to start getting ready to really tackle this in a very comprehensive way'. I think we've got to be realistic in terms of what the constraints are going to be, and the constraints are usually staff and infrastructure, and what you can't do is to switch those on, which is why we made that announcement before Christmas in terms of, 'Right, this is what we're planning in terms of getting the right people in the right place.' So, we've identified where the gaps are. We're training people up for those gaps.

I think what we're looking at is recurring investment here. This is what's great about this. We've got an interesting spending profile, where we've got this additional funding this year, but, actually, that becomes the baseline for next year. So, people can invest knowing that they've got that ongoing commitment. The difficulty for health boards is when they're given a whole load of money towards the end of the year, but there's no recurring funding, so they can't employ people. So, the other thing I've emphasised to them is that I would like them to consider whether we can deliver some of this in a regional context, in particular things like orthopaedics, cataracts, endoscopy and diagnostics generally. And, again, what I hope we'll see as a result of that is a reduction in the variation and inequalities in terms of who does what efficiently and things. So, if people work better cross-regionally, I think that will be helpful.

What I am planning to do, Jack, is to publish a recovery plan in April to set out very clearly, 'Right. This is where we're heading here', and part of that will include the transformation and redesign, making sure that we've got that whole-system approach, but also looking at where, actually, we sometimes do things now that we don't need to be doing. We call people back in for consultations when we actually don't need to be doing that. And all of those add to the waiting lists. And we count everything in Wales. We count things very differently from England. So, we have got to be very careful in terms of comparing England and Wales waiting lists as well. 

10:15

Thanks for that, Minister. The budget also—as well as the £170 million, it also includes £20 million a year, and I quote, to support:

'a value-based approach to recovery over the medium term, with a focus on improving outcomes that matter to patients'.

Do you want to tell us a little bit about that now, and will that be included in the April recovery plan that's going to be published?

So, I think what's really key here is to focus on what matters to patients. So, there may be some clinically really good reasons to do things, but, actually, that's not what patients want. And I'm thinking in particular of maybe end of life. Sometimes, people want to spend their last months, last weeks, at home being cared for at home rather than being hooked up to a whole load of machines in hospital. So, I just think we've got to be aware of what matters to patients, and one of the things we'll be doing is a lot more measuring of what happens to patients, and making sure that those evidence-based best practice clinical pathways are being followed. And all of that then embeds that value-based approach to services. I don't know, Judith, if you've got something else to add to that.

Oh, sorry, yes. Judith Paget, chief executive of NHS Wales, director general of health and social services group. Thank you. Sorry, Chair. 

Yes, thank you, Minister. I think your comments about the NHS needing time to build capacity around staff and infrastructure are really important. I think, just to pick up some of the other comments that have been made, it's very much about how we just don't go back to doing what we did pre-COVID, and actually take the opportunity to do things differently, moving forward—so, how we manage referrals, how we manage follow-ups, how we use technology-enabled care to do things differently; yes, improving efficiency, but, more importantly, improving outcomes for patients, and value-based approaches are very much in that arena of talking to patients about what's important to them, talking to their families as well, and actually tailoring our services so that we actually support what people want, as opposed to sometimes what the standardised offer is across the NHS.

So, I think value-based healthcare is an important feature of our recovery work. It definitely will feature in the April plan that the Minister has referred to. And I have to say, in Wales, we've done a huge amount of work developing our approaches to value-based care, and have been leading on some of this work, definitely across the UK, but also internationally as well. So, I think we've got a really good baseline to build on. Thank you, Chair. 

10:20

Joyce Watson wants to come in. Do you mind, Jack? Is that all right?

Just a small question. When you talk about value-based care, one of the big issues that has really come to the fore is that the mental health of people suffered through isolation. And that drives them, then, to their GP—sometimes just to simply have a chat, because they expected that individual to listen to them. So, how is your thinking in terms of joining up the accessibility for large numbers of the population—perhaps mostly the elderly—with a provision that might sit outside the NHS? It might rest with the voluntary sector or local government, for example.

I'm happy to take that, but I'm sure Lynne has got more to say on this than me.

Thank you, Chair. Yes, thanks, Joyce, that's a really important question, because we do know that loneliness and isolation has a very significant impact on mental health. So, one of the things we're doing is developing a national framework for social prescribing in Wales. You'll be aware that it was a programme for government commitment, and work is continuing apace with that, and we are looking to fund that after we've completed our consultation with stakeholders. But what we're also being really mindful to do is that we know that, in some areas, they've got really well-developed social prescribing provision, and we don't want to reinvent the wheel, really, we want to spread that good practice where we know it exists. But, absolutely, we're very committed to ensuring that we do tackle loneliness and isolation. And also our whole approach to mental health is based on the fact that we shouldn't be medicalising distress, and that's why we're focusing so much on early intervention and providing low-level support across the board, really, so that problems don't escalate and so that people aren't seeking medical help for problems that can be tackled in another way.

Julie Morgan wants to come in. Julie. You're just on mute, Julie. Oh, you're unmuted—go ahead.

Following on from what Lynne has just said, it's very important, as she says, that we don't medicalise this issue. And we do have a loneliness and isolation strategy, which has a fund, where we give grants to small community groups who work with, perhaps, elderly people in an area, to make connections. And the theme of our loneliness and isolation strategy is that making connections between different areas, and I think it's really important that we are able to reach people in that sort of way.

Thank you very much, Chair, and good morning, Ministers and officials. I want to just take a healthcare workforce tack, really. In the budget documentation, you mention in very broad-brush terms about investment in the workforce, including £260 million in education and training, and over £300 million for Health Education and Improvement Wales, which all sounds fantastic. But what are the Welsh Government's key spending priorities within this funding in terms of specifics, and what are you hoping that will achieve during this period? Thanks.

Thanks, Gareth. This is the eighth consecutive year where we have increased professional training and education funding in Wales. So, before Christmas, I announced that £262 million is going to be invested in 2022-23; that's a 15 per cent increase on last year. And as I say, this is so important to remember—getting the right people into the NHS—. It's about people. You know this, Gareth—you were one of them. It's really important for us, I think, to understand that that training is crucial. So, where is that training going? Well, there's a 9.5 per cent increase for medical training places, there's a 30 per cent increase to support core GP training numbers, and there's a 29 per cent increase for pharmacy training across Wales. So, we're hoping that all of those things will take the pressure off some of the GPs, for example, and also the accident and emergency services.

I think it's really important also to stress that we've increased again the number of training places for nurses. So, for the last six years—and I think these numbers are really quite significant—nurse training places have increased by 69 per cent in six years; midwifery training places by 97 per cent. Health visiting training places increased by 30 per cent. Physiotherapists—I think you were a physiotherapist, were you, Gareth?

10:25

There we go. That's an increase by 30 per cent. And radiographer training has increased by 18 per cent. So, there are some of those specifics that I know you're interested in.

Thank you for that, and I think it does go a long way to addressing some of the longstanding issues in recruiting front-line workers and indeed ensuring that they're adequately trained, which is most important to ensure that patients receive the best care possible. 

How will the budget balance the need to meet existing workforce pressures though, and people who may be considered maybe well developed in their careers, who've had a tough time during COVID-19, and the exacerbation of a lot of longstanding problems? So, will that be achievable to tackle some of the longstanding issues and some of the workforce pressures whilst still reducing that money being spent on agency staff? Because I'm still aware that there's still a lot of money going into agency staff and they cost a fortune, don't they?

Yes, they do. They cost more than—. Obviously, we're very keen to get people working directly for the NHS, rather than in agencies, but what we have done—and we're very aware of the kind of pressure people have been under for two years now—we have been boosting workforce numbers. So, we've now got historical levels. We've got 103,000 individuals working in the NHS today in Wales, which is a significant number. And that's about 4,000 more than at the same time last year, and about 7,000 more than before the pandemic. So, those are significant increases.

And what we've also seen is an increase in the temporary workforce and also we're benefiting from a significant number of volunteers, for example, the British Red Cross and Macmillan Cancer Support. So, I think—. Also, we've tried to get people back who've retired. So, we've had about 635 NHS Wales staff who retired and have come back to help us out. So that's been very welcome.

And I think the other thing to point out is that, actually, we've done things differently—we've got new models of care. So, I certainly know that the way GPs work now is very different from the way that they worked pre-pandemic. So, I think it is important for us to understand that it's not just about doing the same thing—it's about doing things differently. And I'm very pleased to push on the digital side of things as well, for example, and make sure we make more use of remote consultations as a way of maybe saving a lot of time in future and using those experts in the best way possible.

Thanks for that answer, Minister. And just finally, if I may, can I just refer you to the Cancer Research UK's response to the Finance Committee's consultation on growing and supporting the cancer workforce specifically? And I'm just looking for a Welsh Government response to that, really.

Well, as it happens, I met with the cancer charities yesterday and gave them a detailed response to exactly where within the cancer field we'll be increasing the numbers. I'm afraid I haven't got that to hand at the moment. I don't know if anybody on the call can recall that information. It is very detailed and, Gareth, I'd be very happy to send that to you, if you don't mind. I can probably get it to you by the end of the meeting, if you'd like.

Yes, that would be more than helpful; thank you very much. And that's all from me at the moment.

Thank you. Were they happy with your response, Minister?

I think they were. I think they seemed pretty happy. I'm really clear that of all the things that we need to tackle, cancer is the one thing that we absolutely cannot let go of. There are things that we can postpone. Cancer is not one of those things we can postpone. So, absolutely. Cancer is right up there, top of the agenda.

10:30

Okay. So, you believe, following that meeting yesterday, that you addressed their concerns, as they had detailed in the letter, from your perspective.

I think so, yes, and I am certainly happy to send you more detail on that, if you'd like.

No, thank you. I think you agreed to share with Gareth, but if you're happy to share with the committee, that would be useful for us, so thank you, Minister.

Two sets of questions. Joyce wants to come in. Then I'll come to Mike, and then we'll go for a break. Joyce.

Thank you for your answer on the workforce. Lots of people mentioned agency nurses, and that they're expensive. Well, there are two things, and this is my question to you in terms of budget. I think there's probably some work going on and it would be useful for us to know why it is that people choose to go and work for an agency rather than the NHS, because you need that information before you can address the problem, and whether that's around flexibility and patterns of work that people are choosing because it doesn't suit their lifestyle. So, you may not have that information in the here and now. But the other side of working for an agency, of course, is the individual, then, more or less, becomes self-employed. They don't have access to the same terms and conditions as the NHS staff as well. So, whilst I've sort of put this out there, and you might not be expecting it—well, you wouldn't be expecting it—I would like some information about that, because you can't tackle the issue unless you know what the issue is, and then it has budgetary consequences for us all. In all aspects of health and social care, agency will be prevalent. 

In terms of the increase in the nurse training, I really welcome that. Everybody welcomes that. And I'm assuming that that new training, whether it's for nurses, physiotherapists, or anybody, is meeting the development of the new type of healthcare provision, because clearly we're moving into a different space, using technology more et cetera. So, it might be useful to understand that. And I'm going to link two things here—

My final one. We see the increase in nurse training, but we know that people are leaving, whether that's because of Brexit or whether it's because of some of the stresses that I've already highlighted. So, to understand the fit between the increase in training and the numbers leaving and the budgetary implications of that would be useful to us as well. Thank you.

Thanks, Joyce. There are lots of questions there. It is an area that we're obviously quite focused on. Generally, I think we're looking at, in terms of nurses, people who are looking for more flexibility. What we've been trying to do, in particular with locums, for example, is to get a better central data system so that at least we don't have locums taking advantage of different pay awards in different places and things. So, there are mechanisms that are being developed centrally now to make sure that we can at least understand who's paying for what where, so that the taxpayer is absolutely getting the best value. I don't know, Judith, if you've got anything to add on this. You must be an expert on it.

Thank you, Minister. I'm not sure about the 'expert', and I know we're short of time, but, yes, just to say, from my previous roles, I'm always interested in why people might leave NHS employment to go and work in an agency. Clearly, pay is one of those, but the maximum flexibility the agency offers to individuals about where they work and when they work is also raised, but pay is mostly the issue. Clearly, from an NHS perspective, we do have contracts with agencies—those who provide care and support into the NHS—and they are negotiated and renegotiated on a regular basis.

In relation to training, yes, the training requirements of nurses, and indeed all staff, changes as the needs of the NHS changes, but not only for new staff, obviously, but, clearly, Health Education and Improvement Wales and other organisations are really interested in making sure that existing staff get skills updates and development as well. So, a huge focus on both of those: the training of new, but also the training and updating of existing staff as well, so that everybody can keep up with the changing requirements of the NHS and changing needs of patients. Thank you.

10:35

Thank you, Judith. We'll take a couple of blocks of questions from Mike Hedges, and then we'll have a break, if that's okay. Mike Hedges.

Diolch, Cadeirydd. Financially, primary care has lost out following the merger of primary and secondary care in the health boards. How will the budget use targeted investment to improve primary care provision and stop people having to use A&E for their primary care needs because they cannot get appointments with their GPs?

Thanks very much, Mike. I've made it clear to health boards that I am expecting to see a shift from secondary to primary care, and in terms of the general medical services contract that has just been announced on 1 December, what we are hoping to see is a better focus on cluster delivery models, so that we can see improved services for people using them, and that will see significant changes to the way that patients access their GP practice through an access commitment. So, that access commitment, and we've put an extra £5.2 million on the table to help with that—we hope to see an end to that 8 a.m. bottleneck that so frustrates so many of our patients.

I mean, that is where we're at in terms of GMS, but, obviously, there are other areas in primary care that we need to consider. One of them is dentistry, and I've been trying to really focus on dentistry. It's really quite difficult at the moment, because we're still in a system where we're on kind of an amber signal, which means that, due to the pandemic, it's actually difficult for us to get back to normal, but we have a new contract starting from April, and that will mean that we're introducing a new way of measuring activity and volumes, which will be different from the way we're doing it, and that's going to be an extra £2 million in recurrent funding. And we are setting some measures in place with that new contract in terms of the application of fluoride varnish, taking new patients on and appropriate recall intervals. So, we often go for little check-ups that are not necessary, so we just need to make sure that we're focusing the attention on where it needs to be. And also the same thing on optometry: very keen to see far more optometry work being done within our communities rather than people going directly to secondary care.

If I move on to something that we discussed in some detail yesterday, so I'm not going to repeat everything I said yesterday, on prevention and health inequalities, Chair. You'll know my view on health inequalities after yesterday. But can I ask how much of this budget is being spent on preventative action, and how does the budgeting tool for health then enable longer, healthier lives?

I'll come in first, then I'm going to invite Lynne, if you don't mind, to also comment on it. For me, one of the key things is to not lose focus on the fact that, actually, there's £8 billion there and we've got to get that £8 billion working better, so it's not about focusing just on the £800 million. So, how do we get people to shift? So, I've been very clear that I'm expecting to see a shift towards prevention, but I think it's really important that we understand, and that debate yesterday was really interesting, I thought, and really touched on the fact that it's not all about health—it's about housing, it's about poverty, it's about failure to be able to eat properly, all of those things that are much broader than direct health issues. So, prevention is absolutely clear, and what I'm hoping to do is to really start looking at the specific measures in certain areas, so tobacco use, or a healthier weight, for example, and that the health boards will have to account for those—so, a lot better monitoring and accountability mechanism. I don't know if Lynne wants to add to that.

10:40

Thanks, Eluned. Like Eluned, I'm also very keen to see health boards proactively investing in prevention—so, I very much support action in that area—but also recognising that prevention is a cross-Government effort that involves all departments. But we are also taking targeted action to support prevention. Just to give you a few examples, we've reprioritised the £7.2 million annual prevention and early years funding from April, and that's going to be used by directors of public health across all LHBs to support interventions in the obesity and tobacco policy areas, in line with the work that we're taking forward there. We're making significant investments in an in-patient hospital smoking cessation service across Wales. As part of our tobacco control plan, we're also undertaking specific engagement with groups with higher smoking prevalence, such as those in our most deprived communities. We're funding things like the Bump Start programme in Cwm Taf Morgannwg to support healthy weight gain in pregnancy and healthy family lifestyles. Our new regional investment fund, which is over £144 million, will, for the first time, have a pillar that concentrates on prevention as a key priority, and we're encouraging regional partnership boards to work collaboratively within that framework to make sure that they deliver preventative activity. All activity funded by the RIF must directly support development and delivery of the six national models of integrated care, one of which is community-based care prevention and community co-ordination. And I'm happy to give further examples, if the committee would like me to.

Finally from me, Chair: I think that we've seen one really good example in Designed to Smile, which has really reduced the number of children having fillings. When you go to a poor area of social deprivation and an 11-year-old girl asks you what a filling is, that's a success. What I really want to ask is: how are you working with the education Minister to ensure that the free school meals that we're going to bring in for primary schools can actually be used to try and reduce obesity? An obese four-year-old is almost certainly going to become an obese adult, and they're probably going to end up with diabetes at the end of it—type 2 diabetes at the end of it. How can we use some of the other levers outside health in order to improve health outcomes?

Irfon Rees, do you want to introduce yourself as well? Thank you.

Will do. Irfon Rees, director of population health in Welsh Government. Thank you, and thanks for that question. The health Minister absolutely identified this as an area where we need to work closely with education colleagues. There is an existing strategic partnership called Building a Healthier Wales, which brings together local government, Public Health Wales and a number of other partners. Within that group, they have some very specific public health expertise, and we've commissioned that group to support that commitment around free school meals, to undertake a health impact assessment and to think about how do we maximise the opportunity of that commitment to deliver improved nutritional standards, for precisely the reason you say: so that it can have maximum impact at a universal level. So, I welcome the question and it's an area we're keen to prioritise.

And on top of that, it's not just about the food aspect of it, what I've asked them to do is to think about the economic aspect. Let's make sure that the food comes locally and that we can help support the local economy and that that produces more jobs—all of that helps health. So, it's using that significant additional investment to do just much wider good than what was initially envisaged.

Yes, I did. Thank you. Mike quite rightly highlights the importance of cross-Government working. Just to add to what's been said, we are investing a very significant sum of money in our 'Healthy Weight, Healthy Wales' strategy—£6.63 million a year. And as well as the very targeted actions as part of that strategy, which includes £600,000 for a children and families pilot that we're running in three areas—Cardiff, Merthyr and Anglesey—we're also looking at how we can work across Government and link in to the free school meals work to make sure that we're delivering across the board to reduce obesity. Because we also recognise that the challenges we had before the pandemic have actually been exacerbated by the pandemic, so this is absolutely an area of priority for us, which we're supporting with a very large sum of funding.

10:45

Thank you, Minister. If there are no other questions from Mike or other Members, we'll pause at that point, and can I suggest that we just take—I'm hoping a five-minute break is okay, but, Minister, you're working the hardest, is five minutes okay?

Thank you very much. So, we'll be back just after 10:50—10:51, 10:52. Thank you.

Gohiriwyd y cyfarfod rhwng 10:46 a 10:55.

The meeting adjourned between 10:46 and 10:55.

10:55

Welcome back to the Health and Social Care Committee. This is currently our item in regards to budget scrutiny with the Ministers, and I next come to Jack Sargeant. Jack.

Diolch, Chair. If we could focus on mental health and well-being for a short while, Deputy Minister, can I focus my question to you? Obviously, the pandemic has had an enormous impact on all of our mental health and well-being, and including the services as well, but you'll know I've fought for a long time—. Pre-pandemic, I believe we were in a crisis state with regard to mental health then. I do welcome the specific allocation of the £50 million in the budget, and, of course, I recognise that will be increased to £90 million in 2024. It's worth saying that Mind Cymru have too accepted and welcomed the allocation of the budget from the Welsh Government, but they would like to know how the funding would be used. So, Minister, will you be able to tell us a little bit more about that? I also note—and I'm conscious of the committee's time today—that the Children, Young People, and Education Committee will be looking at this specifically for children, so perhaps you could set out the other priorities for your portfolio.

Thank you very much, Jack, and thank you for recognising that it is a very substantial additional investment in mental health services in the budget that we're considering today. From the additional £50 million, what we're planning to do is to use around £25 million to directly support mental health services, with the remainder of the funding then being utilised to support key areas that impact on mental health, so that would include substance misuse, employability and prevention. And I should draw the committee's attention to employability. We've got a number of employability projects that were previously funded by European funding, so, because we haven't had that replacement money from the UK Government, we have had to find the money to continue those very important programmes that help keep people in work or get people into work, which we know is so vital to people's mental health.

Some of the funding is going to be used for COVID recovery, because, obviously, the pandemic has had an impact on waiting times, but I'd also like to assure the committee that we are going to use the funding to continue with the reforms that we're taking forward through the 'Together for Mental Health' delivery plan and also the commitments that we've made in committee reports, the 'Mind over matter' report and this committee's 'Everybody's Business' report.

In terms of priority areas, we are planning to invest significantly in increased service improvement funding. This year, we've invested an additional £7 million, and we will be increasing that again in the coming year, and our priorities there will include child and adolescent mental health services, perinatal mental health, early intervention in psychosis and crisis services. As you know, we're developing the 24/7 mental health support through the 111 number, and we're also going to be implementing the recommendations of the delivery unit's review of crisis care services.

In terms of other priorities within next year's budget, there'll be further support for all-age eating disorder services to ensure that we implement the recommendations of the 2018 eating disorder review. There'll be support for primary care liaison and additional support for tier 0 and tier 1 services, and that will include both national commissioning and regional allocations through health boards, and, as you know, we've been very keen to increase the lower level support available, especially in light of the pandemic and the worries that we know people have had.

We'll also be funding alternatives to crisis admission, and that reflects the agreement that we've made with Plaid Cymru to pilot new models to prevent admission for children and young people in crisis. We will be implementing the recommendations from the national collaborative unit's secure services review, and that's going to be published shortly. Also, I'm very pleased to say that there's going to be additional funding for national commissioning to support the suicide and self-harm programme, including a postvention pathway, which was, again, a recommendation that came from the predecessor committee to this one. But I should say as well that we are acutely aware that the workforce pressures we were facing in mental health before the pandemic have been made worse by the pandemic, and we know that some of the investment we put in last year hasn't been able to be utilised by health boards because of those recruitment difficulties. So, before we release funds for 2022-23, we are undertaking an exercise with health boards to identify any legacy posts and grades that they haven't yet recruited to. So, by working with health boards then, we should be able to get a much clearer picture of what the needs are and how we can best use the substantial extra money that we've got available to us.

The other point that I wanted to make, which is in relation to the previous discussion around outcomes, is I am very, very keen as Deputy Minister that we are really focused on outcomes. So, for any money that health boards access, they will have to submit a plan to show how they're going to use that money to reach the outcomes that we've set out as priorities, so that we can make sure that we deliver, and I will of course be holding them to account on that.

11:00

Thanks, Deputy Minister, for that very detailed answer. Just very quickly, you mentioned towards the end of the answer the review with the health boards. When is that review likely to take place and when will we hear the outcome of that?

Well, the review is starting now and I'll bring Tracey in to talk about the precise timescale, but we want to make sure it's done with pace because obviously we need to sort out exactly how much money each health board will be getting. Tracey, did you want to come in?

Yes, please. Thank you, Minister. Yes, it's immediate in terms of reviewing with the health boards. We have very regular interactions with the teams anyway, but as the Minister said, the important thing for us to understand in allocating the funding for next year is that we don't disrupt the workforce in any way, and really to understand how they're utilising new models. So, assistant psychology posts would be an example of where, through their planning, they're using new models in the mental health workforce to be able to utilise the money in the way that the Deputy Minister has described.

I want to talk about capital spending. You've already said, Minister, that it might be an area where there could be some risk because it's £53 million less than the revised final budget for this year, and capital investment, according to the Welsh NHS Confederation, could put at risk some of tackling the backlog, transforming services, supporting digital and delivering safe care. They share your disappointment, I think it's fair to say, about that reduction, especially in delivering transformation and improved facilities. And running, of course, alongside that is the reduced capital allocation and the likely impact that it will have on the ability to decarbonise as well. So, I'd like you to speak to that and tell us what impact that might have and how you might move forward with priorities, considering that that is so reduced.

Well, thanks very much, Joyce. This is definitely the most challenging part of the budget as far as I'm concerned because obviously we have big ambitions to be transformative and it's difficult, there may be some instances where we would like to go further. Regional centres, for example, we're keen to move forward on them. There will need to be some capital allocation for those kinds of things, but actually the amount of money we have in place is very restricted. And a lot of that money that is earmarked for capital, some of it has already been committed, because it’s ongoing capital expenditure, and some of it is money that we have to spend in order to keep the show on the road. So, some of the areas, for example, are to do with fire hazards, and you have to spend money on those or you have to shut a hospital. So, there are lots of those things that, actually, are money we just absolutely have to spend, and then the amount that’s left over is fairly limited. So, if there is an area where there’s slight frustration on my part, then it’s definitely in this space.

One of the positives is that we are going to have £50 million capital expenditure for social care and, as you know, it was a key part of our manifesto commitment that we would really focus on social care. So, 50 local community hubs over the course of this Senedd, the integration of health and social care, and the rebalancing of the residential care estate. So, there’s £50 million for that.

Obviously, there will still be COVID recovery investments that we need to focus on, so we are hoping to see a regional treatment centre, such as those being considered by Betsi at the moment. And there will also continue to be a focus on key primary and community care schemes. So, places like Tredegar, Bridgend and Machynlleth. You will be aware of the one in Machynlleth, of course.

The other thing, of course, is the Velindre cancer centre. So, there’s enablement work that needs to be done there. And also genomics. So, what we know is that the way through a lot of future pandemics—. The fact that we’ve all been able to be boosted and all of that development is because of genomics, so we are continuing to invest significant money in that—about £12 million.

Then the other thing that I’m really keen to keep driving on is digital transformation and investment, making sure that we’ve got a 111 system that is available for people, and I’m really keen to see us drive forward with e-prescribing. The limitation with e-prescribing is quite often about personnel and staff and the expertise in the digital space, because, obviously, the people who work in that space are at a premium. But you still need a lot of capital to make all of that work. So, that money is also going in.

11:05

Thank you, Minister. There's a lot in there and because we’re short of time, it might be that we can pick up some points in written form as well, but thank you for your answer, Minister. Gareth Davies.

Thank you very much, Chair. I want to talk now about general social care spending. The Welsh NHS Confederation has called for ring-fenced local authority allocations for social care to tackle the social care problems and to have more of a direct, local influence on how those budgets are spent. The Welsh Government says it is directing an amount through the social care formula, but there aren’t any plans to specifically monitor any element of the local authority spend in relation to the funding. So, with that in mind, how can you ensure that the funds deliver on those objectives for social care if you can’t actually monitor what local authorities are actually spending?

Thank you very much. Thank you, Gareth, and obviously this draft budget is very good news for local authorities and for social care. We all know the huge pressure there’s been on social care services and local government has asked for an increase in resource, and this budget does move towards that.

But we do respect local democracy. Local government is there with its own elected people, and we won’t require specific monitoring of local authority spending on social care in relation to this additional money funded through the settlement. But we do continue to collect extensive data, and we publish data on local authority budgeted and actual expenditure, by service area, through our standard data collection processes. We’ve given local authorities the best opportunity to use this funding in the way that will fulfil their own aims with their knowledge of the local area.

We do retain a detailed overview of the sector because, on a fortnightly basis, we have data submitted by the local authority social services departments to provide a social care checkpoint—and this is shared with Welsh Government officials, directors of social services and external stakeholders—which describes exactly what's happening in the social care field. And we get that every fortnight. And on an annual basis, the local authorities' social services are reported on via the performance and improvement framework, and that provides us with a lot of data. So, we get data from wide sources, and of course local authorities are monitored and assessed via the Care Inspectorate Wales inspection plan. So, there are lots of areas where we're able to get information about what's actually going on. But, as I said at the beginning, we do respect local democracy and the local members elected, and so we don't monitor this expenditure in the way that you asked about in the question.

11:10

No, I quite agree with that point, and I appreciate that well-informed answer there. Could you possibly provide further information on this new £50 million capital fund for social care? I know we're going to expand a bit further on in the session about the integration, but just to cover for now how that's going to happen and more information specifically on this £50 million and what it will do to strengthen those arrangements. Because from what I've seen, the fund seems to be a bit of a middleman between what you want to achieve and the sector feeling what there is to be achieved by the £50 million. So, how are you going to break those barriers down to ensure that the sector is benefiting from the £50 million and it can be felt on the shop floor, if you like, as well?

Yes, we're very pleased that there is this new capital fund, and the aim is to support the development of integrated health and social care hubs across Wales and the rebalancing of social care through investing in the social care estate, which of course, as you know, is very varied. So, the new capital fund amounts to £50 million in year 1, £60 million in year 2, and £70 million in year 3. And we'll work through the regional partnership boards to ensure that there's an integrated response and to absolutely maximise the alignment of resources across health, social care and housing, because obviously there may be an element of developing some specific housing provision.

So, RPBs will develop investment plans for this new capital fund alongside their plans for the new regional integration fund, which is £144.6 million, in order to maximise the impact, so that the capital and the revenue will be aligned and integrated models of care and delivery can be developed and operationalised. And this is very much being done in partnership, to go back to what you said at the beginning, to be sure that it will reach the places that it should reach. So, we will see those examples coming forward, those proposals, from the regional partnership boards, and we'd be very pleased to keep the committee in touch with the development as it goes along.

Thanks, Deputy Minister. Just finally, what was lacking in terms of clarity in the evidence paper was how those allocations will ensure the stability of social care services in terms of residential and domiciliary care. I'm just wondering if you're in a position to expand a bit more on those areas.

Yes, because obviously this has been a matter of huge concern to us all, and I know you've asked questions about it in the Chamber on a regular basis, and we're all very concerned about the stability of residential and domiciliary care and getting through this really difficult period that we've been in so far. And the funding uplift does recognise this, and obviously we hope that local authorities will be boosting their social care sector in their own budget settings. 

Now, the allocations in our draft budget reflect our clear choice to invest in the social care workforce. We know how hard the social care workers have worked, and we know what a terrible time they've been through, so we really want to help stabilise that care provision and to better support, then, those people with care needs. The allocation of £43.2 million to social care, including £36.5 million in the local government settlement, and £6.7 million to the NHS in the draft budget, is to enable the real living wage to be offered to social care workers in the public and the private sector. I think that is a critical move for the workforce, and I hope that will help provide sustainability and will enable providers to be more competitive in the labour market. It's absolutely essential, as I know you'll agree, that we have a strong social care sector, and I see this budget as a major step forward on the way towards getting a strong and more sustainable sector.

But just to talk generally about the sector—

11:15

I'm ever so sorry, Minister. It's not your fault, it's just timings, but just ever so briefly. 

I just wanted to say, basically, that we don't want things to stay the same, we want things to change, and we are planning a national care service which, perhaps, we will discuss at another time. 

Thank you. Albert Heaney, I think I saw your—. If you can be ever so brief, because we've got more questions than we've got time for left. Albert. 

Diolch, Chair. Albert Heaney, chief social care officer. I just wanted to add to the question, really, and the wealth of the answer in terms of the shift around closer partnership working across health, social care and partners, across primary community services to really support people living independently in their own homes for longer. We see that the funding opportunity that's presented here, both in terms of the settlement for local government, but also this new change funding around the regional integration fund, is a real opportunity to have enabling reablement approaches that will help improve independence and, significantly, hopefully, over time, reduce the burden on our health and social care services. I'll pause there because of time, Chair. Thank you. Diolch.

Thank you, and sorry for interrupting on that. Just to give some perspective of time, we've got 15 minutes left and there are three subject areas that we really must cover. Joyce is going to cover some areas around social care workforce, Jack's got questions about unpaid carers, and to finish with, Mike's got questions around the integration of health and social care. We've got about five minutes for each section, so, Minister, I hope you don't mind if Members politely interrupt you if you're not quite getting to the point. I hope that's okay. So, Joyce Watson. Thank you. 

I'm going to ask about the social care workforce. You started by talking about the minimum living wage, but we need to address the immediate urgent need of the severe shortages across the social care workforce, and beyond that living wage. The Trades Union Congress talks about terms and conditions. For example, one of those is sick pay and the other, quite clearly, was the support needed for mental health, which is now in situ, but the sick pay is due to finish. In terms of keeping people interested in working in the social care workforce and those who have dedicated their lives already within it, how are you going to address those needs? And I'm going to add in career progression as well.   

Thank you very much. There's obviously an awful lot in those questions. Just to say that we know that the real living wage by itself will not be enough to support, retain and attract workers to social care, and that we must give urgent attention to terms and conditions beyond this. We have set up the social care fair work forum, who advised us on the living wage, and they are now looking at improving terms and conditions, looking at career progression, and looking at all those other elements that will enable us to attract and sustain the workforce. We believe it's very important that we work in partnership with the fair work forum, which consists of the unions, the employers and Social Care Wales and other interested bodies, so that we can come out with proposals that are acceptable to the workforce as a whole. So, we're using that forum. We're waiting for their recommendations now about terms and conditions and career progression, so that's how we're going to move forward on those other areas. And then of course, on the statutory sick pay, we have helped with that during the pandemic, but that would be coming to the end in March 2022, so I've asked officials to look at what we can do to see if that can be continued, and we'll be able to report back to the committee about that. 

11:20

Can I very quickly ask you to look at what Hywel Dda are doing in terms of recruiting some additional social care workers, and the learning from that? They haven't poached the local government employees. There must be some learning from that pilot that they've done, so it might have some value in this area.

Yes, absolutely. I know about what Hywel Dda has done and I know there have been quite a lot of experiments on ways of working and trying to deal with the extreme shortage that we've had. It's meant really close working together. But whatever happens, as you say, we don't want to poach from one area to another. We need new schemes that will bring new people in, and I know that's what is happening in some places.

Thanks, Chair. Just very briefly, just to pick up on Joyce's point about mental health. Obviously, we recognise the importance of supporting our health and social care staff with their mental health, and there has been a range of support in place throughout the pandemic to support both health and social care staff. In December, a decision was taken to reaward the contract to Health for Health Professionals Wales, and that, from April, is going to provide support for all health and social care staff. So, just to give you that assurance, Joyce, that we are taking the need to meet people's mental health support needs very seriously in the Welsh Government.

Diolch, Cadeirydd. If we can look at unpaid carers, please, and the access to respite and the well-deserved breaks from caring duties, the Welsh Government's budget allocates £3 million for 2022-23. That is the same as this year. It is out there that access to respite has been historically poor. Are the Welsh Government confident that this £3 million is enough to meet the need for access to respite and breaks from care? Perhaps I can ask you how this is going to be achieved as well.

Thank you very much. Absolutely, in the Government, we recognise the huge pressure that there's been on unpaid carers across Wales. We work very closely with carers and with their representatives, with Carers Trust Wales and Carers Wales and the forum of parents and unpaid carers, because it's really important that anything we do is developed in conjunction with the sector.

An additional £10 million from this budget has been allocated to provide a range of support to unpaid carers, and this figure includes the £3 million allocated to local authorities to meet the urgent demand for respite for unpaid carers. I'm very glad that we were able to move ahead and allocate that. A mid-year report of that £3 million shows that a range of new and innovative options are being developed, such as a rapid response respite at home service, day trips, vouchers for young carers, gym membership and the purchase of exercise equipment and outdoor furniture or tablets. They're just some examples of the way the funding has been used, and that is to support more traditional residential and daycare respite services.

The indicative funding of the £3 million is intended to build on this work. A lot of the work has been done about indicating what are the sort of things that will help to give respite. We'll deliver, of course, our programme for government commitment to fund a short break respite scheme. I've got a ministerial advisory forum that advises me about the best way to achieve the best outcomes for unpaid carers. We'll also be informed by the report that I commissioned from Carers Trust Wales, which sets out a new vision for respite and short breaks in Wales.

I hope we will be able to transform respite provision in Wales, because it's so important that we provide opportunities for carers to take a break. But, of course, it's not the only funding that will be available for this. This is specific extra work. Local authorities receive substantial financial support from the Welsh Government through the local government settlement, and this, as we've discussed earlier, is hypothecated funding, which offers flexibility to the authorities to prioritise their services locally in line with their local communities, which, of course, includes unpaid carers. 

In addition—and finally, Chair—regional partnership boards will be expected to invest a minimum of 5 per cent overall of the regional integration fund, which is over £4 million over three years. So, this £3 million is very welcomed and very important, but, of course, it's only a small bit of what we are able to give to carers as a whole. 

11:25

Thank you for that very detailed answer, Deputy Minister. I was going to delve into some of the financial assessments behind those decisions in the budget allocation. I don't think we've got too much time for that. Perhaps we can have sight of those in written form if that's available. 

Yes, of course. We'll let you have those if they are available. 

I want to talk about the integration of health and social care. I think of them as a continuum rather than cut-off points. Can the Minister tell us the exact figure to be allocated to the new social care regional integration fund? How will schemes be integrated into the main stream in future years, and how will it be scrutinised?

Shall I take that, Julie, and you can add some bits? Is that okay? The total amount is £144.6 million, and, of course, what we've done is we've taken the previous funding pot for the integrated care fund, the transformation fund, but also the dementia action plan fund and the emotional health and well-being fund. We've amalgamated them all and we've put them all into that new integration fund. Obviously, I agree with you; I think it's a continuum, but what we've got to do is to create the facilities and the opportunities and the ways of working, and I think the regional partnership boards are a real opportunity to do that. 

There is a major difference in terms of the way we've done things in the past, because there'll be a focus now on embedding six national models of care. Also, one of the things that we were a bit concerned about before is that, actually, there was a lack of continuity and a lack of ownership by the health boards and the local authorities. So, this time, we are saying that you have to match fund here in order to mainstream services that we know work well. There's also going to be dedicated support for the regional partnership board infrastructure costs, but also, a clear exit strategy, because what we find is that they'll say, 'This is fantastic, we love this. It's really working well; just keep on spending, just keep on giving us this new money.' What we're trying to do is to change the way they do things at the moment, so they need to be shifting their ways of working, but we just need to give them a leg up on that journey. 

And just in terms of the governance and scrutiny and things, we are very keen to make sure that we've introduced a work programme. It's got some key work streams, including governance, including scrutiny, including planning and performance, including citizen engagement. So, all of those things are there and in place. I don't know, Julie, if you've got anything to add to that.

I think you've mainly covered it, but I think the important thing is that we want to strengthen the RPBs and make sure that integration really works. We have got a lot of experience now of the previous projects, so that we have learnt from the two different funds that we had operating before, and that the new integrated care and transformation fund will produce models where we've learnt from what's happened in the past.

11:30

Thank you, Julie. Mike, do you have any further questions?

Just a very straightforward question from me, relating to the voluntary hospices funding review. I understand that discussions have been pretty positive from the point of view of, certainly, the children's hospice sector, but they haven't yet seen anything on record about additional funding that could or hopefully will be made available. Are you able to shine some light on that today?

If you don't mind, Rhun, I'll be making an announcement on this imminently. So if you can hold on, and there will be some positive news, I hope, very shortly.

Wonderful. We'll claim credit as a committee for encouraging that statement to take place soon.

That's right. When will you be likely to make that statement, Minister?

No, I'm joking. [Laughter.]

Right. Okay. Thank you, Minister, thank you for that. You've kindly agreed to just 10, 15 minutes on anything that Members may have on the current COVID pandemic and the current situation, so, grateful for that, Minister. Can I just ask—? From my perspective, the pressure obviously at the moment, and the concern, is the pressure on the NHS with higher levels of staff sickness or being away from work. Now, I just want to clarify, in your statement on Tuesday, you said that 8 per cent of NHS staff were self-isolating from COVID-19. That seems to be the overall sickness absence rate, as I understand. Can I just confirm what the percentage of NHS staff is that are currently self-isolating, are sick with COVID-19 or absent for other reasons? And I can see Judith wants to come in as well. Minister.

Yes, sorry, that was the overall figure. So, it's about 8 per cent and that reflects about 10,000 staff off. But that does include other sicknesses as well. I know Judith can give a bit more detail on the breakdown of where exactly—who's off with COVID, who's off with other things.

Thank you for clarifying that, Minister—grateful. Judith.

Thank you, Minister. Thank you, Chair. So, the overall NHS absence rate at the moment is 8.3 per cent. That is broken down as follows: COVID sickness is 2.3 per cent; self-isolation is 1.4 per cent; and other sickness is 4.6 per cent. Those figures came into Welsh Government on Tuesday, and relate to the previous seven days. Just to say, that rate is reasonably stable from the week before, so that's positive. What the average does mask, of course, is that there are some organisations with much higher and some with lower, and I'm still waiting for the breakdown by individual organisations. But I know, having regular contact with health boards particularly, and trusts, that they are struggling with staffing in some areas.

How does this rate, Judith, compare to 12 months ago and perhaps two years ago, if I can ask that, if that's possible—before the pandemic?

I haven't got the actual data in front of me—

—so it probably would be wrong for me to try and give you any accurate information. But in terms of a year ago, it's probably there or thereabouts in line with what it was like in January of last year. In terms of January 2020, which was pre-pandemic, usual staff sickness absence in January is usually around 5.5 per cent, maybe 6 per cent. But of course, there is variation in that as well, so I'd give that caveat around that.

No, I appreciate that. Thank you, Judith. Any further questions from Members? Joyce Watson, I think you had a question. You're off mute; go ahead, Joyce.

Oh, sorry. If it comes back to you, Joyce, that's fine. Mike Hedges wanted to come in. Mike Hedges.

11:35

Thank you, Chair. I was talking about COVID variants. We've had thousands of them, which is inevitable with a virus. We've had 12 of them that have been serious enough to be named. Does anybody know where we are with variants that are in existence in other parts of the world now, and if any of them are as infectious as omicron or are as deadly as delta?

We keep an eye on this, Mike, and we get regular reports in relation to new variants. You will have seen that there was a variant of concern, or I don't think it was officially stated as a variant of concern, in France recently—there was a little concentration there. But we've looked into that and it does look like omicron, and even delta before that was outcompeting it. So, that was something where—. We just keep prodding a lot of these things.

I think we had about 15 cases in Wales of a variant of concern that wasn't delta, from India, but, again, there was no further transmissibility and omicron seems to be outcompeting everything at the moment. And that's not to say that there won't be a new variant of some sort somewhere in the world, but omicron at the moment seems to be outcompeting everything. So, we've seen lambda in South America, that's been something we were concerned about and kept an eye on.

But the key thing is: does the variant we have now, can it outcompete those? And that seems to be the pattern at the moment. It's going faster and faster, as you can see. The issue then is: is it possible—? If you see changes to the protein spike, that's the time to start getting worried, so that's why I was a little bit concerned about the variant in France, because there were lots of changes to that one, but nobody seems to be concerned about it.

Thank you. I'm just wondering if the Minister's got a response to a specific area around in-patient mental health and some of the COVID restrictions for in-patients specifically. Because I've been contacted recently by a constituent whose relative is currently an in-patient in a mental health setting and some of the detriments that self-isolation has to mental health patients who are recovering in hospital, because a large part of their programme for rehabilitation is social interaction, is getting out, it's engaging with social groups and adding some degree of normality to their day and their schedule. And that's been a little bit undermined by the pandemic recently, to say the least. I'm just wondering: is there any scope to review this at some point in order to allow acutely unwell mental health patients to effectively recover from their illnesses?

Is that Lynne, or does the Minister want to come in on this? Lynne Neagle.

Thanks, Chair. Yes, just to say that, obviously, the deteriorating situation we were facing has had an impact on people in in-patient mental health hospitals in terms of visiting and in terms of access to outdoor visits, et cetera. But I understand that we did issue guidance this week to the NHS to try and help with this situation and I'll just bring Tracey in to add some more details to that very important issue.

Thank you. Thank you, Minister. Yes, you're absolutely right, this was an area that all of the health boards were looking at because they absolutely recognise the importance of leave to, obviously, recovery and treatment. So, as the Minister said, guidance issued yesterday, so we can make sure that the committee has sight of that guidance, and that's intended for there to be a national approach to leave and group work, and also then that it's aligned with things like care homes' visiting guidance and so on. So, that's what we tried to do there. But we'll share that with the committee, with your permission, Minister and Chair.

11:40

Sorry, Chair. My question is: there's a big focus on omicron, and quite rightly so, because of the infection rate, but delta is still around. Do we have—if you don't have it now—any indication of the numbers of people who are in hospital with delta, as against the numbers of people who are in hospital with omicron? Because we all know that, from every evidence so far, delta seemed to affect people more severely if they had underlying health conditions than it appears that omicron does.

My other question in this area is: the PCR testing has disappeared because the UK Government have decided that people who are entering the country no longer have to take a PCR test, and how we're going to be aware of—and it follows through the previous question—any variants that might enter the UK, thereby Wales. Are we now depending on other countries to notify us that they have a new variant, and have we sort of passed the buck, or have the UK Government passed the buck to other countries to do the job that, in my opinion, we should be doing? And if that is the case, how concerned are you?

Thanks, Joyce. I'm going to ask Judith to come in on the omicron and delta hospitalisations. But just on the PCR side of things, we've been really clear, right from the beginning, with the UK Government that we thought it was a mistake to dismantle PCR testing when people returned from abroad. Unless you do the genomic sequencing, you can't tell what's coming in. So, we thought it was a mistake. It's unlikely to stop things from coming in, but what we could do is to slow things down, and that makes a big difference. If you're able to vaccinate people, as we were able to give the booster, that extra couple of weeks really allows you to protect the public and the population, and we're starting to see some very interesting statistics now in terms of hospitalisations and things, as a result of that booster programme. Our booster programme in Wales was phenomenally successful—more successful than anywhere else in the United Kingdom in terms of speed of roll-out. What's happening now—. We had to agree this reluctantly, as you know, because we've got this border situation that we can't—. People fly into the United Kingdom generally. What happens now is that you take a lateral flow test on day 2. If that is positive, then you automatically go for a PCR test. So, you will have to do a PCR test, but all of this is based on trust, and it's based on people doing the right things, and what it does do is to delay the process by a couple of days. And the real tragedy here is that the United Kingdom is really, really good at genomic sequencing. We're one of the best in the world. South Africa took about 21 days to do the genomic sequencing, by which time it had gone all around the world. Even Hong Kong took about nine days. Had we had this protection in place, we could have seen it earlier—I've got no doubt about that.

Thank you, Minister. Sorry, I don't have any assessment of the absolute breakdown of omicron versus delta or other in hospitals. What we are paying close attention to is the number of patients in hospital who are there because of their COVID-19 symptoms and conditions and those who are in hospital for other reasons who just happen to have COVID-19. So, that data is available.

In relation to omicron itself, the committee will be aware that just before Christmas it was by far the dominant strain in Wales. The genome sequencing being undertaken was detecting it. The estimates were that about 80 per cent of the cases in the community were omicron. So, from that point of view, I think that will certainly translate into hospital admissions, because some of those patients who are attending for other reasons who have got COVID-19 will most definitely be omicron COVID as opposed to anything else. So—

11:45

Can I, Chair—? You say 'most definitely', but we don't know, and I'm just wondering: why is it we don't know? Are we going to find out the difference between delta and omicron? According to everything we're reading and being told by the experts, the likelihood if you have delta affecting you as an individual—should you already have any underlying conditions or age as a factor, it could present a potential greater risk of harm to you as an individual.

Thank you, Joyce. Just briefly, Judith. I think we're a little over time.

I was going to say, with the Chair's agreement, if I can check that out with colleagues in Public Health Wales and come back to the committee on that specific point, I'd be happy to do so.

Thank you ever so much, Judith. Appreciate that. Any more Members got—? I've got Rhun waiting. Anybody else? I've got one question myself. No. So, Rhun, and then myself, and then we'll end the session. Rhun ap Iorwerth.

Diolch yn fawr iawn, Cadeirydd. Un peth sydd yn ein dal ni yn ôl yn y frwydr yn erbyn COVID ydy'r ganran rhy uchel o bobl sydd ddim wedi cael eu brechu, wrth gwrs. Does yna neb yn y fan hon eisiau mynd i lawr y llwybr o orfodi brechu, ei wneud o'n fandadol. Dwi ddim yn meddwl bod hynny'n rhywbeth sy'n apelio at unrhyw un ar fater o egwyddor. Ond mae yna lawer o opsiynau yn cael eu gweithredu gan nifer o wledydd. Rydyn ni'n gwybod bod Canada rŵan yn edrych ar drethiant a sut mae hynny'n gallu cael ei ddefnyddio fel anogaeth i bobl gael eu brechu. Rydyn ni'n gwybod am hyd yn oed, yn y sector breifat, y busnesau yn newid amodau tâl salwch. Rydyn ni'n gwybod am wledydd eraill sydd yn cynnig incentives i bobl gael y brechiad mewn gwahanol ffyrdd. Oes gan y Llywodraeth fwriad o edrych ar gryfhau COVID passes, defnyddio unrhyw arfau eraill er mwyn annog take-up uwch o frechu?

Thank you very much, Chair. One thing that is holding us back in the battle against COVID is the too high percentage of people who haven't yet been vaccinated. Nobody here wants to compel people to be vaccinated or to make it mandatory. I don't think that appeals to anyone as a matter of principle. But there are many options being implemented by several nations worldwide. We know about Canada now looking at taxation and how that can be used as an incentive for people to be vaccinated. We know about the private sector, businesses changing terms of employment in sickness pay and so on. We know of other nations that offer incentives for people to be vaccinated. Does the Government have any intention of looking at strengthening COVID passes, other ways of encouraging take-up of vaccines?

Diolch. Yn sicr, beth dŷn ni'n ei wneud ar hyn o bryd yw jest i ganolbwyntio ar y pethau hawdd i wneud, ac rŷn ni'n dal gyda phroses eithaf pell i fynd o ran brechu, achos mae lot o bobl sydd heb gael y booster, yn arbennig yn yr oedran yna 20 i 40, ac mae hwnna yn cyferbynnu â faint o bobl oedd yn dioddef o omicron, felly dŷn nhw ddim yn gallu cael y brechlyn o fewn 28 diwrnod, so efallai bydd hi tamaid bach yn hirach—felly bydd y rhaglen yn gorfod mynd yn hirach nag oedden ni'n gobeithio, efallai.

Ond mae hefyd gyda ni lot mwy o boosters i'w gwneud. Mae gyda ni boosters ar gyfer 16 and 17-year-olds, mae gyda ni 12 to 15-year-olds at risk, mae gyda ni ail ddos i 12 to 18-year-olds, mae gyda ni dos cyntaf sydd i ddechrau ar gyfer plant pump i 11 oed clinically at risk. So, mae ffordd bell gyda ni i fynd gyda'r bobl nad ydynt wedi cael y cynnig yna eto, ac mae'n rhaid inni weithio ar hynny.

Unwaith rŷn ni wedi mynd trwy hynny—. Ac rŷn ni yn dal i fod, trwy'r amser, yn rhedeg ar ôl rheini sydd ddim wedi cael y brechiad cyntaf; beth sydd wedi bod yn bositif yw dŷn ni wedi gweld lot mwy o bobl yn dod ymlaen am eu dos cyntaf a'u hail ddos yn ystod y cyfnod booster yma, so mae hwnna wedi bod yn help.

Mi fyddwn ni'n cario ymlaen i edrych ar hwn, achos os nad yw pobl yn cael eu diogelu, mae'n fwy tebygol o gael effaith ar yr NHS, felly mae cyfrifoldeb gyda ni i gyd fel trigolion i ofalu am yr NHS a deall ein cyfrifoldeb ni. Felly, yn sicr, fe fyddwn ni'n dal i edrych ar COVID passes, ac, wrth gwrs, rŷn ni'n ystyried os y bydd angen dangos y booster nawr ar y COVID pass yna.

Thank you. Certainly, what we are looking at at the moment is to focus on those things that can be done easily. We still have a long way to go in terms of vaccination, because there are many people who haven't yet received the booster, particularly in that age range between 20 to 40, and that corresponds with how many people were suffering from omicron, so they can't have the vaccine within 28 days, so the programme will have to last for slightly longer than we had hoped, perhaps.

But we still have more boosters to do. We have boosters for 16 to 17-year-olds, we have 12 to 15-year-olds at risk, we have a second dose for those between 12 and 18, we have a first dose to start for those between five and 11 years of age who are clinically at risk. So, we do have a long way to go with those cohorts that haven't had that offer yet, and we need to work on that.

Once we have gone through those cohorts—. And we are still chasing those who haven't received the first dose; what's been positive is that we have seen more people coming forward for their first and second dose during this booster campaign, so that's been a help too.

We will be continuing to look at this issue, because, if people aren't protected, then it's more likely to have an impact on the NHS, so we have a responsibility, all of us, as residents of Wales, to protect the NHS and to understand our own responsibilities. So, certainly, we will be continuing to look at COVID passes, as you suggested, and we will be considering whether we need to demonstrate or exhibit the