LAST week we debated in the chamber Tassia Haines’ petition to the Senedd asking for improvements to the care of those suffering metastatic breast cancer (MBC) in Wales.

The petition came about because Tassia, who herself suffers from MBC, felt along with many others that they were being badly let down by the system. The petition has raised a lot of awareness of the condition and I want to pay tribute to Tassia and all the other petitioners for their bravery and commitment in coming forward to campaign on behalf of all MBC sufferers.

Tassia’s petition is very important because it shows that the model used by the NHS to plan services for future generations is outdated. Tassia shouldn’t have to be highlighting to the Minister that there is only one specialist secondary breast cancer clinical nurse in the whole of Wales, steps should have already been in place to recruit more specialist nurses.

We are seeing so many really big issues coming to the forefront, such as ambulance waiting times, struggling mental health services, and lack of NHS dentists, to name a few, that it is clear to see that the NHS is struggling to provide for the needs of patients now, so the question we need to ask is how is the Welsh NHS going to provide for the future needs of Wales?

I have no intention of ever using the NHS as a political football and I want to be clear that I am not doing so here. I have received outstanding care from the NHS, and I recognise the dedication of the healthcare staff in all areas. I write because I believe that we cannot go on constantly criticising the NHS, otherwise, it will become a system where whoever shouts the loudest or shames the government the most will get the resources they are demanding. I instead believe that we need to think about how we plan a better NHS model that can provide services for the future with the capacity to deal with the ever-increasing health demands of the nation.

I also want to be clear that I don’t have all the answers, but I believe that the question needs to be asked.

What I do think is clear, however, is that we need to be taking better care of our healthcare workers. Those working in the NHS very often face different challenges compared to other careers, there is an emotional cost that staff pay when working with very ill and dying patients and I recognise that staff experience trauma when dealing with horrific injuries. In the Chamber, I have raised this issue and the issue of better staff rotas which will allow for greater flexibility, so staff are able to attend their children’s Christmas plays or school sports days for example and do not have to make the hard choice of prioritising either their struggling NHS workload or their family.

If we are going to have a properly functioning NHS of the future we need to be thinking now about what changes need to be made and how they can be best achieved.