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My first days here have been spent listening and learning about the challenges and opportunities for better health in Wales. Early discussions with Ministers, health service leaders, professional bodies and clinicians leave me in no doubt that there is a strong desire to improve population health and to reduce health inequalities across the nation. We need to find ways to translate this commitment into transformed health services and better health outcomes.
My experiences in different countries have convinced me that the most effective health systems are built on a strong foundation of primary care and I’m already getting involved in discussions about the way in which primary care is being strengthened across Wales. My most recent work has been in Nova Scotia, where primary care is very poorly developed; GPs tend to be single handed and work on a highly inefficient fee for service basis. While I recognise that Wales faces many challenges, I’m delighted to see the strengths of primary care here and to learn of the future plans to further develop it.
Looking across the spectrum of healthcare, I am learning about the progress that’s been made and getting to grips with the challenges we face around the quality and safety of the health services we provide. As I visit Local Health Boards over the next few months, I will be particularly interested to understand how we can work together to increase clinical and community ownership of the changes that are needed to make our services sustainable for future. On the population health agenda, I will be looking for assurance that our health protection arrangements and our plans for improving population health are robust.
Looking beyond the remit of the NHS, I want to know how we can create an environment in Wales which will support individuals and communities to maximise their health potential; the Wellbeing of Future Generations legislation passed by the last Assembly is attracting a great deal of international interest and our task now is to turn this framework into concrete action which promotes better economic, social, and environmental outcomes.
And although my role is to work at population level, I am keen to know what more we can do in Wales to support the health of vulnerable and marginalised populations; looked after children, refugees and asylum seekers, and people affected by addictions have featured in my induction meetings. I believe that a society should be judged on the way in which it treats groups such as these.
Wales has a strong tradition of working in partnership with our staff and their representatives; it was heartening to see that in the latest GMC national training survey, doctors in training in Wales had the highest satisfaction rate in UK at 83.33%. I’m looking forward to speaking with doctors across Wales as I visit hospitals, primary care centres and a range of healthcare centres in the coming weeks and hearing your perspectives on our NHS.
It is a huge privilege to serve as CMO for Wales; our population of just over three million expects and deserves the very best health and health services. I relish the prospect of working with dedicated and committed clinical colleagues to help deliver this.
Dr Frank Atherton, Chief Medical Officer for Wales
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