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An investment in health

This is an article for the South Wales Evening Post

Part of my job as a Regional Assembly Member is to scrutinise the way that the Welsh Government funds and delivers services.

That means keeping up to date with what is happening on the ground and being aware of any problems and/or changes needed.

Just before Christmas I visited the cancer centre in Singleton Hospital.

This is a centre of excellence serving the whole of Swansea and West Wales.

The staff at this unit are first class and the treatment on offer utilises the most up-to-date techniques.

Included in the facilities are four concrete bunkers containing radiotherapy machines.

As most of these machines are over ten years old, the local health board have plans to replace them on a phased basis and intend to put a bid in to the Welsh Government some time this year to fund that work.

The machines form part of the treatment for reducing and eradicating tumours.

The techniques for doing this have advanced considerably since I last visited this facility.

Scans are taken of the affected areas and passed to physicists who devise complex programmes to ensure that thescanners are targeted properly so that only the tumour is eradiated.

In terms of head and neck tumours this often involves moulding a mask around a patient's head so that doctors and technicians can ensure there is no movement between treatments.

The recent Assembly budget has contributed to the treatment of cancer in our area.

The budget deal between the Welsh Government and two of the opposition parties will see the provision of a £2 million Da Vinci robotic surgery system capable of minimally invasive treatment of prostate and other cancers.

Once the business case has been finalised the machine will actually be based in Morriston Hospital in Urology where it will enable the removal of tumours using keyhole surgery without many of the traditional side effects associated with the treatment of prostrate cancer.

Also included in the budget deal was an investment in telemedicine and a £50 million intermediate care fund to help people stay out of hospital.

All of this investment illustrates how the health service is changing.

In addition to the huge cost of new technologies and medicines that are helping all of us to live longer, we are also looking to treat and look after more people in their own homes and communities.

For policy makers, in an age of austerity, this poses huge challenges, which we have to meet head-on.

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