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STATEMENT BY MINISTER ON THE FUEL SITUATION IN WALES

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Statement by Jane Hutt on the fuel situation ...
Statement by Jane Hutt on the fuel situation

'I would like to make a short statement to complement the reference to health and social services made in Sue Essex's statement.

'Assembly members will be well aware, from the routine statements received from our communications room and media broadcasts of the impact that the fuel crisis has had particularly on both health and social services.

'It is important to record the speed with which service continuity plans developed for the millennium and arrangements for inclement weather and other emergency plans have been adapted to fit the situation.

'There have been good examples of health and social services working with partner agencies to address local priorities. We will need to build on these links as fuel becomes available to ensure that it reaches those who need it to carry out essential services.

'In Wales the crisis hit us earlier than other parts of the country. We heard the English health minister announce a red alert for the NHS. I want to make it absolutely clear that NHS Wales has been on red alert for a great deal longer than that. Emergency plans are there to be used, when needed, to fit the circumstances and that in what we have done since the weekend.

'The first priority of ambulance health and social services has been to ensure continuity of their crucial services. This includes emergency ambulance cover, maintaining essential hospital services child protection and care for the most vulnerable in our communities who rely heavily upon our community health and social services. Services have been prioritised on the basis of risk but the essential services have remained intact up to now.

'There has been some good news concerning the fuel blockade but we cannot and will not become complacent to the seriousness of the situation across the NHS and Social Services in Wales. In spite of the good news, I must tell you that the situation is quite likely to deteriorate over the next few days until adequate supplies of fuel are widely available. We must remain on alert because:

community based staff who are reliant on fuel to provide services to the most vulnerable get priority access along with the emergency services;

our hospitals, residential and nursing homes must be staffed and those staff need fuel;

These establishments rely on regular deliveries of medical and food supplies and other services to maintain a safe operation

'Health and social services are continuing to monitor the effects on services across Wales and are working locally with the Police seeking to get what fuel there may be available to essential workers.

'NAW staff continue to work with the cabinet office in London to ensure that priority is given these services and their suppliers by the responsible department, in national arrangements developed for priority users of fuel. I am pleased to report that health and social services were at the top of the list of priority users issued as guidance by the home office.

'The present position is inevitably volatile and different arrangements are being worked out at local level. Much will depend upon the co-operation of all those involved including oil companies, police, garage owners and the public

'Although fuel supplies are beginning to get through, our fear is that on yesterday's achievements, this is too little, too slowly. Health and social care agencies and their staff have worked miracles in the circumstances. But we need to understand that this level of effort and disruption is not sustainable for very long.

'We must remain alert to the knock on affects there can be as services become affected in the immediate term. The Welsh Blood Service has coped well with maintaining blood supplies and the public continues to support donor sessions.

'However, this service is dependent on other agencies, for example the post office capacity to maintain mail services is crucial to donor sessions. We need to remain vigilant to these inter dependencies

'NHS Direct Wales set up earlier this year with a view to providing a source of health advice to the public reported a 25% increase in enquiries yesterday and have increased their cover capacity.

'Vital supplies are running low; staff are running out of petrol for cars to get to work; many staff are working longer shifts to reduce travel. Even if fuel flows freely from refineries from today, it will be some time before some level of normality returns. It is therefore likely that things will get worse before they get better.

'Health and social care agencies are maintaining their vigilance and responding to changing circumstances. The NAW communications room is continuing and health and social service staff remain part of those arrangements working with our partners on the ground

'I would like to re-iterate the tribute that Sue Essex paid to all those in the health and social services, who have all been effected by this crisis.'

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