Mere weeks after Miliband was accused of wanting to ‘weaponise’ the NHS – a phrase which he has not denied using – patients and doctors working in Labour-run NHS Wales have called on him to stop being hypocritical, and to address the serious failings of NHS Wales. They have called for an inquiry similar to that which exposed the scandal at Mid Staffordshire Hospital, in which hundreds of people were found to have died “needlessly”.
The Sunday Times has reported that 105 patients who suffered poor care under NHS Wales have written to Miliband as leader of the Labour party, condemning the “scandalous postcode lottery” between the quality of care in England and Wales.
The letter reads: “You regularly claim that the English NHS is in a state of ‘crisis’. However, you have consistently refused to comment on the situation in Wales, where you lead the party that runs the health service. As the leader of the Labour party, we are asking you to take responsibility for this state of affairs, to back a public inquiry into the condition of the Welsh NHS.
“It is simply hypocrisy to call ‘ crisis’ in England and then turn a blind eye to the more serious situation in Wales.”
Sir Norman Williams, a former president of the Royal College of Surgeons, has added his voice to those critical of the state of the NHS in Wales, saying: “A reluctance to acknowledge clinical concerns resulted in serious harm in Mid Staffs NHS Trust, so it is perhaps time . . . to accept there are significant problems and mount an investigation akin to the Francis Inquiry into Mid Staffs.”
Labour have been making much of NHS England’s failure to hit targets on A&E waiting times, as figures over Christmas showed that 87 percent of patients who attended A&E were seen within four hours, against a target rate of 95 percent.
However, figures released this week in a Commons Library report show that in the week to January 11th, 90 percent of patients attending A&E in England were seen within four hours, but just 81 percent of patients in Wales were seen within four hours.
The report also states that 13 percent of those attending large A&E departments in Wales in 2013-14 waited for longer than four hours, “around double the percentage recorded by major departments in England”.
And the target for cancer patients being referred by their GP starting treatment within 62 days has not been met in Wales since mid-2008.
Labour said: “David Cameron attacks Wales to run away from his own record in England where A&Es are in crisis and patients are waiting longer for operations and cancer treatment.
“The independent Nuffield Trust found that no one part of the UK has a health service that is consistently ahead or behind . . . When the Tories were last in charge in Wales, patients waited two years for operations — that’s why people don’t trust them with the NHS.”
But the Conservative Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has countered “Miliband’s ‘weaponise’ strategy simply confirms an uncomfortable truth about his party: for Labour, politics matter more than patients.
“Welsh NHS patients will be furious to see Labour touring the TV studios saying there is a crisis in England whilst denying it is a crisis in Labour-run Wales.”