Tuesday, 3 June 2008

Land of the Freebie revisited

Health Minister Ben Bradshaw provoked one of the liveliest spats between Ministers in Wales and England with his analysis of the NHS west of Offa's Dyke.

Today, he was put on the spot by MPs on Parliament's Welsh affairs committee. He was at pains not to comment on the running of the NHS in Wales. (His last intervention led to a protest from Welsh Secretary Paul Murphy to his own boss, Alan Johnson).

That said, he did defend the UK Government's decision, as he put it, to prioritise cutting waiting times rather than introduce free prescriptions (88 per cent of which are already free in England) or subsidise hospital car parking.

Differences in waiting times between England and Wales were, as he put it, "a consequence of devolution".

One statistic caught the eye. The Minister told the committee a hundred and nine patients in England were waiting more than 13 weeks for their first out-patient appointment. The Welsh equivalent is 25,042. A rough calculation suggests that if Wales had the same population as England, the figure would be around 425,000 compared to 109 in England.

He did acknowledge that waiting times had also been cut in Wales. Indeed, his tone was so diplomatic he may have been auditioning for the Foreign Office.

Chairman Hywel Francis thanked the Minister for his "frank" answers. Mr Bradshaw looked rather alarmed - "I hope I haven't been too frank".

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I watched him today, he looked like a rabbit caught in headlights.
I though a few of the committee were very incisive in the way they questioned him. I did note that his minder had to jump in to add to or correct what he said.