14 August 2023

Welsh health minister accuses Barclay of ‘naked political hit’ in NHS comparison

14 August 2023

The Welsh health minister has hit back at Steve Barclay and accused him of a “naked political hit”, after the Tory minister’s criticism of the nation’s waiting lists.

Eluned Morgan rejected the Health Secretary’s comments, after he said he would be “open to requests” for patients from Wales and Scotland to be treated on the NHS in England amid record waiting lists.

The Labour-run Welsh NHS has long been a target of Conservative attacks, as Prime Minister Rishi Sunak seeks to meet his pledge of cutting waiting lists.

According to the most recent NHS England data, 7.6 million people were waiting to start treatment at the end of June.

It's a naked political hit in the middle of the silly season ... He should concentrate on his job and I will concentrate on mine

Mr Barclay told the BBC on Monday: “In England we have virtually eliminated waits of over 18 months, whereas in Wales for example there are over 70,000 patients waiting more than 18 months.

“In fact, many of your listeners will be surprised to learn there are four times as many patients waiting over a year for treatment in Wales compared to in England.

“That is despite Keir Starmer saying that Wales is the blueprint for what they would do in England.”

But the Welsh minister for health said progress had been made in recent months to improve the NHS in Wales, adding that Cardiff was “far more honest with the public” over health service data than London.

According to the latest NHS data for Wales, there were approximately 748,400 “patient pathways” waiting for treatment in May. Wales and England measure NHS performance differently, making direct comparisons difficult.

Baroness Morgan told BBC Radio 4’s World at One programme: “I think it’s just summer political fever time.

“They’re taking this opportunity to try to distract attention from the fact that they have 7.5 million people waiting on their waiting list. And the fact is we measure very, very differently.

“We count in our statistics diagnostics and therapies. None of those are counted in the English figures. Of course we are still challenged, we’re all still getting over the pandemic.

“We do have waiting lists that are too long in Wales, but it’s a situation that is not considerably better in England, with 7.5 million waiting there.”

She insisted that the so-called “8am bottleneck” was being tackled in Wales, with progress too in the use of community pharmacies and changes to NHS dental services.

The Labour politician was also sceptical of Mr Barclay’s offer for Welsh patients to be treated in England.

“If it’s a free offer, I’ll be taking him up on that offer. But my guess is that it is not.

“And the real question is where on earth would he find the capacity from in England, when he has got 7.5 million people waiting for treatment there?

“It’s a naked political hit in the middle of the silly season … He should concentrate on his job and I will concentrate on mine.”

Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar also said that Mr Barclay should not be lecturing anyone on waiting lists.

“The idea that Steve Barclay will lecture anyone on how to destroy the NHS in England, or the fact that the SNP get a free ride from the mess that they’ve made here in Scotland, I think is for the birds,” he said on Monday.

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