The Welsh Conservatives are holding their conference in Llangollen. Winning the argument in Wales is important for the next UK General Election not only because of the important marginal seats in that country – but also because if the impact that argument can have in England. Labour’s message is that what they have done in Wales they would do for England. The Conservatives regard that as a warning to the English.
The Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt in his speech to the conference said in England there is “a journey that is starting to transform our healthcare, making it safer, more compassionate and more accessible.” he wanted to back “your efforts to help the Welsh NHS to follow suit”.
Mr Hunt added:
I have often thought that health systems the world over are well served by the teachings of the Welsh Patron Saint, Dewi Sant. “Do ye the little things in life” could be the motto of any Royal College, and goes a long way to describing how care in a health system should work…
The power of those little things show that targets are not everything. But what targets are is an important smoke alarm if things are going wrong.
Which is, I am afraid, what has been happening in Wales.
Waiting times targets for people who need urgent assessment for suspected cancer, missed for the last six years.
Ambulance targets missed, with one patient at the Princess of Wales in Bridgend waiting over four hours in an ambulance before the hospital would let him through the door.
Every single A & E target missed since 2009 with one patient spending not four hours but three full days in a Welsh Emergency Department.
According to the Royal College of Surgeons, 152 people died on waiting lists at just two hospitals.
And only this morning, the respected Nuffield Trust think tank published its comparison of the health systems across England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland. It found ‘striking rises in waits for patients in Wales, who now have to wait more than three months longer than people in England to get a hip or knee replacement. It revealed the appalling truth that you are twice as likely to die from a hospital infection in a Welsh hospital than an English hospital.
In a system as big and complex as the NHS things do go wrong. But if you ignore the evidence when individual problems pile up, if you stick your head in the sand and pretend all will be fine…well, that’s exactly what happened at Mid Staffs under the last Labour government in England.
And that is what the Labour government in Cardiff is risking right now in Wales. They are sleepwalking into a Welsh Mid Staffs tragedy and unless we shout loud enough – alongside brave campaigners like Ann Clwyd, Gareth Williams and others who tragically lost loved ones in Welsh hospitals – these appalling lapses in care will repeat themselves time after time.
The Prime Minister also gave a speech reinforced this strong message:
Now let me be clear: the doctors and nurses in the Welsh NHS are dedicated people. They do a brilliant job.
But they are being woefully let down by Labour.
Patients are waiting weeks and weeks for vital heart scans.
One in seven people in Wales is on an NHS waiting list.
A Cancer Drugs Fund in England – but not here.
I tell you – when Offa’s Dyke becomes the line between life and death, we are witnessing a national scandal.
There are people who have seen the ones they love waiting far, far too long for treatment……sometimes dying…and these grieving families are in pain.
They want answers. Investigations.
But Labour just do not get it.
Faced with grief, they demand evidence.
Faced with evidence, they demand silence.
It’s the same old socialist mantra: the system knows best.
Well, I tell you.
After this utter shambles Labour should never dare call themselves the party of the NHS again.
Welsh Conservatives are arguing heart and soul that it doesn’t have to be this way..with real courage and reform, things can be different.
On the NHS we’re arguing for more funding, more transparency, more power to doctors and nurses.
The Welsh First Minister Carwyn Jones was interviewed on the Today programme this morning and was unapologetic about his NHS record. The earlier report said the Conservative criticism was due to the Labour Party in Wales cutting NHS spending but there is much more to it than that. It is about transparency and accountability.
My suspicion is that Ed Miliband is aware that his Party’s record on the NHS is poor. It would be hard for anyoone with even a mild interest in public affairs to be unaware of the failings. The choice for Mr Miliband of whether to condone of repudiate his colleagues was cretainly difficult. He has chosen to condone them. That was a weak decision and it is right that Mr Miliband should share the electoral consequences with Mr Jones.