Tuesday, 4 March 2008

Bashed by the Bishops

The Welsh Assembly Government may be weathering the storm that followed the suggestion by a UK Government Health Minister that subsidising hospital parking may not be the best use of NHS resources.

But Ministers of the Crown are one thing, Ministers of Religion are another.

The Bishop of Monmouth told MPs this morning that WAG puts ideology before the welfare of patients.

Donimic Walker, criticised plans, currently under review, to develop neurological services in south Wales. He said this could mean patients from the north being sent to Swansea for treatment, rather than Liverpool.

He told a parliamentary inquiry into cross-border issues: "That appears to be putting the philosophy and ideology before the care of the patient when presumably the care of the patient is what matters.

The Bishop told MPs on the Welsh affairs committee that "the ideologies seem to get in the way of practicalities" in treating patients. He questioned the impact of a policy of providing all services within Wales.

He said: "It ought not to be beyond us to regig the system to follow patient needs rather than the other way around but that's not happening.

"While they are saying we put the welfare of the patient first, the practical reality is often that the patient doesn't feel that or that that doesn't appear to be the case."

A Church of England Bishop told the MPs that it's "entirely unreasonable" that some patients on either side of the Wales/England border face longer waiting times for treatment.

Anthony Priddis, the Bishop of Hereford, said people should be treated equally wherever they live. "I think from where we are, it is entirely unreasonable that there should be that difference of treatment according to where people live and waiting lists, and we would want to see a much greater equality for people whichever side of the border they live."

Those who occasionally assume Wales is an island have been told otherwise. I wonder if the Welsh Health Minister will accuse the Bishops of sour grapes.

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