Defend NHS Wales from Tory-Labour cuts

29th September 2013

In England the Health and Social Care Act is dismantling the NHS. In Wales even without the Act, underfunding, years of neglect, poor planning and a spineless Welsh Government are having the same effect.

"It's true the NHS is under threat... in England" is what we hear too often from union leaders in Wales who claim that the Labour Welsh Government protects the NHS in Wales.

At the Wales TUC conference this year there was only one motion on the NHS - it called for a fight against all cuts, and was voted down by union leaders. This does not reflect the mood of members.

Lengthening queues for planned treatment in NHS Cymru's hospitals is a scandal that is getting worse because of cuts being made by the seven health boards in Wales to meet the Welsh Government's spending targets.

Spending targets have driven change in healthcare services in Wales - for example, we are currently awaiting news from the South Wales Programme consultation which would cut the number of A&Es in south Wales to just five serving two million people! Which hospitals are about to get downgraded? Which local community will have significantly reduced access to emergency and critical care beds?

Privatisation

It's true that in Wales we have been spared the naked privatisation of healthcare seen in England but the NHS in Wales is not free of market forces.

The Welsh Government's Public Accounts Committee is asking for an investigation into claims that patients in Wales are able to jump lengthening queues for NHS care by paying to see the same doctor privately.

The Welsh Audit Office have alleged that cost-cutting measures are behind many of the 13,000 operations cancelled in Welsh Hospitals since 2010-11, due to either a lack of staff or lack of beds.

Also that Wales will have the lowest spending per head on healthcare of any country in the UK by 2014-15.

Even all the cuts to services, beds and staff have not been enough to make all the savings that the Labour Welsh Government has been asking for and, in each of the last three years, they have had to come up with extra funding in the last months of the financial year to ensure that health boards stayed within their targets.

For patients, however, the potential consequences of these cuts are much more serious than missed performance targets.

There have been a reported 152 deaths of patients on waiting lists for cardiac surgery in Cardiff's UHW and Swansea's Morriston Hospital in the last five years, for instance.

As late as this May, at the Wales TUC, Welsh First Minister, Carwyn Jones, was claiming that savings would not be made through redundancies of NHS staff in Wales.

The conference was barely over before that claim was being proved false - the Cardiff and Vale Health Board is in the final stages of a consultation over 324 redundancies.

It is not just a question of health workers and trade unionists in Wales showing solidarity and providing sympathy for our brothers and sisters in England.

Whether the cuts are being implemented by the Con-Dems or Labour, we are united in the same fight to defend the NHS.

The allies we can rely on in this struggle are not Labour politicians who implement NHS cuts but the millions of working class people who rely on and value their NHS.

Claire Job, Swansea Socialist Party

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