Week in WAG talks NHS reforms

Politics Editor Rachel Victoria Lewis reports on the latest announcements about the NHS in Wales

The Welsh First Minister Carwyn Jones has issued a caution that the Welsh NHS faces collapse without reorganisation. This controversial view was revealed in a honest interview with the BBC Sunday Politics last week.

His decisions may not prove popular at the ballot box, but the FM feels certain that reform is needed in order to provide a “safe and sustainable health service”.

The WAG may have received more health powers, but Carwyn Jones admits “we can’t replicate the entire British NHS here in Wales” and therefore some services will have to be delivered in England.  He believes that these unpopular reforms are necessary and “it would collapse otherwise – there’s no question of it”.

For instance the specialist services of Great Ormond Street hospital cannot be mimicked in Wales. In actuality, services to children have been cut in some areas. Protest broke out in North Wales when neonatal care unit was moved to a hospital at a greater distance from the community that it served.

Equally, in Mid and West Wales, there were protests over the closure of three community hospitals. Carwyn Jones’ rebuttal of these measures is that “I think the worst thing that could possibly happen is that nothing happens and then we see services just disappearing at random all over the place”.

His interview has sparked criticism from other politicians with vested interests in the NHS. Conservative AM, Angela Burns called his interview a “masterclass in how to avoid responsibility”, and highlighted the need for “a proper debate is about what are deemed essential services”.

In the previous week Wales’ chief medical officer Dame Dierdre Hine also criticised NHS reorganisation. She worried: “are the community services and the social services needed to support them up to the task of taking on 24-hour responsibility for frail, sick people?” and “is the ambulance service able to provide rapid transfer to centers at possible greater distance than people have currently to travel? Is this going to be more or less expensive?”

On-going reviews are being carried out by local Welsh Health Boards of a number of services, and they are in the process of finalising plans which will be revealed in late Spring.

Rachel Victoria Lewis