NHS Emergency Services

Oral Answers to Questions — Wales – in the House of Commons at 11:30 am on 26th January 2005.

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Photo of Julian Lewis Julian Lewis Shadow Minister (Cabinet Office) 11:30 am, 26th January 2005

What discussions he has had with the National Assembly for Wales Government on proposals for changes to emergency services provision across Wales.

Photo of Julian Lewis Julian Lewis Shadow Minister (Cabinet Office)

I thank the Minister for that rather uninformative reply. With the out-of-hours service described as a postcode lottery, and with the chief executive of the Cardiff and Vale Trust saying that the problem is a crippling lack of capacity, does the Minister feel even the slightest twinge of guilt about that claim made eight long years ago that the country had only 24 hours to save the NHS?

Photo of Don Touhig Don Touhig Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Wales), Department for Constitutional Affairs, The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Constitutional Affairs) (also in Wales Office)

I am aware of the concerns that have been expressed, but I point out to the hon. Gentleman that £35 billion-worth of cuts in public services will do little for the health service or the blue light services in Wales. As he makes a particular point about the health service and the trusts in Wales, we can get a clear indication of what his party would do if we look at the words of the co-chairman of the Conservative party, who told the Conservative Medical Society that the Conservatives had two objectives, first:

"to persuade the public that the NHS is not working . . . The second phase is to convince the public that it won't work and can't work."

The clear message is that the election of a Tory Government would spell the end of the national health service.

Photo of Mr Jon Owen Jones Mr Jon Owen Jones Labour/Co-operative, Cardiff Central

When my hon. Friend next meets his ministerial colleagues in the Welsh Assembly, will he ask them to look at the provisions of the delayed discharges and transfer of care Bill and how it has worked in England to reduce bed blocking, and will he try and persuade them to learn from the experience of England and to adopt similar measures in Wales?

Photo of Don Touhig Don Touhig Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Wales), Department for Constitutional Affairs, The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Constitutional Affairs) (also in Wales Office)

As my hon. Friend is well aware, the new Health Minister in the Assembly has said that it is important that all of us in the United Kingdom—the devolved Administrations and the Government—learn from each other. As my hon. Friend knows, the new Health Minister in the Assembly will be addressing Parliament in the next week or so. I am sure he will put that point to him and receive an appropriate response.

Photo of Bill Wiggin Bill Wiggin Shadow Secretary of State for Wales

One of the hardest-hit emergency services is the accident and emergency department at University Hospital of Wales Cardiff, where patients were described as being treated worse than animals. Dave Galligan of Unison said in The Western Mail that he was horrified at the conditions and that, over the past 25 years he had heard it all, and this was not the NHS of the 21st century. Is this just a January thing, or what will the Minister do?

Photo of Don Touhig Don Touhig Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Wales), Department for Constitutional Affairs, The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Constitutional Affairs) (also in Wales Office)

It is important that all of us who are concerned, interested and supportive of the national health service take those comments very seriously. I have no doubt that my colleague the Assembly Minister for Health and other Assembly Ministers in Cardiff will take them seriously. I am sure an appropriate response will follow. It is important to recognise that we are making good 18 years of under-investment in the health service in Wales as a result of the cuts that the hon. Gentleman's party imposed when they were in power. He will have to answer to the people of Wales how £35 billion-worth of cuts will benefit them. They will destroy the health service and other public services in Wales. Those are the issues that he will face, should there be a general election this year.