Don't let them kill our NHS! Fight Welsh NHS cuts!

28th August 2013

The Socialist issue 777
Ross Saunders, Cardiff Socialist Party

Welsh NHS cuts have forced 13,000 operations to be cancelled in the last three years, a whopping 4,000 of which were at the University of Wales Hospital in the Heath, Cardiff.

The Royal College of Surgeons said services at the hospital were "dangerous" and of "poor quality". Patients, they said, were "dying regularly" while waiting for heart surgery. 152 patients have died because of heart surgery delays at the Heath and Morriston (Swansea) hospitals since the recession began.

Labour MP Ann Clwyd has called the Heath "the Welsh equivalent" of the Mid Staffs scandal, but Clwyd played a terrible role as the Con-Dems' "patients' tsar" in attacking health workers for falling standards instead of government cuts.

Opposition is growing but it must get organised immediately, because the pace of attacks is quickening. Over half of the operations cancelled at the Heath were scheduled for this year.

Despite a promise by Labour's First Minister, Carwyn Jones, to Wales TUC that cuts in the NHS would not mean redundancies, the Cardiff and Vale Health Board issued '188' notices to cut 384 staff.

Labour-run Neath and Port Talbot and Rhondda Cynon Taff councils threaten to do similar.

The heroic efforts of most NHS staff, many doing unpaid overtime every week in incredibly intense working environments, will not be able to prevent the cuts doing further damage to the service.

The revelations have blown apart Welsh Labour's claim that they are protecting Wales from Tory attacks.

Wales doesn't have privatisation pushed to the same degree as in England, but the funding cuts are on an unprecedented scale.

According to the Audit Office, by 2014/15 spending per person on health in Wales will be lower than any other part of the UK.

This will create more space for private healthcare companies to cater to those who can afford to jump the queue.


Mark Drakeford AM, the health minister, has refused a public inquiry into the crisis at the Heath. Labour denounces cuts when demanded by Westminster, but pretends that they are 'improvements' when the Welsh Government obediently implements them.

For example, Labour claims the plan to downgrade Accident and Emergency Services in South Wales is driven by clinical priorities, not by cuts.

Protests have forced a delay in the "South Wales Programme", which would leave just four or five fully equipped A&E and maternity departments for 2.1 million people.

Drakeford has declared ambulance targets "clinically irrelevant". Despite the Herculean efforts of understaffed ambulance workers, the Welsh Ambulance Service has missed its targets every month for over a year. Urgent cancer care targets have also been missed.

Wales needs an Assembly government that would demand the needed funding, not dress the cuts up as improvements or wring their hands and weep while they swing the Tory axe.

Drakeford's first announcement as health minister was that health boards must stick to their spending limits.

The opposite policy should be pursued: health boards should spend what is required to maintain services.

Other parts of the public sector, like councils which can borrow or use reserves, can take up the slack, while a Wales-wide campaign against health cuts links up the vibrant local campaigns to demand the needed funding from Westminster.

Wales TUC, despite passing a motion at its conference, has not organised a demonstration against NHS cuts.

Building a mass movement in Wales to defend the NHS, linking up with the rest of the UK, is essential: without it the NHS will be killed by privatisation in England and starvation in Wales.


Protest at the Tory Conference

  • Defend Jobs and Services
  • No to Austerity
  • Manchester March and Rally - Sunday 29 September

Assemble at Liverpool Road, M3 4FP, 11am
Marching to a rally in Whitworth Park

Defend all Barts health services and staff

Protest: Monday 16 September, 5pm, Whipps Cross Hospital main gate

Demonstrate: Saturday 21 September, 12noon, The Green by Whipps Cross Hospital (near roundabout bus stops), marching to Walthamstow town square
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