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Opinion

Labour is justifiably fixated with Tory incompetence, but their own mismanagement of the Welsh NHS is in their blind spot

08 Jan 2023 4 minute read
Adam Price speaking in the Senedd

Adam Price, Leader of Plaid Cymru

The news headlines across the UK have been overwhelmingly full, in the last few days, with story after story about the crisis within the NHS. In Wales, last week saw a day where we had four separate NHS stories in our BBC news bulletins alone.

These included the services described as being ‘on a knife-edge’, the Welsh Government advising for patients to be discharged without care packages, and two cases of patients struggling to get access into hospital.

In one case, a pensioner described how he had waited overnight outside a hospital in an ambulance as other elderly pensioners were passing out in the A&E department.

The other was of a grandson who had found his elderly grandfather collapsed at home over Christmas with a cardiac arrest. Upon calling 999, he was told that no ambulance was available, so proceeded to take his grandfather to hospital himself, and had to physically carry him into the A&E department.

Scenes like these are happening all over the UK. People are waiting days in A&E, weeks for doctor’s appointments and years for planned treatment.

The pictures of ambulances queueing up outside hospitals, unable to offload their patients due to bed shortages, and of exhausted workers forced to take to the picket lines because the only other option is to walk away from a vocation they love.

Underfunded

Labour, under Keir Starmer’s watch have been quick to criticise Sunak’s government. “They broke the NHS” declared Keir Starmer, adding “it’s time for a Labour government!”

Social media posts from supporters are often accompanied by the now familiar hashtag of #GTTO – Get the Tories out.

It’s all too easy to assume that these criticisms apply just as equally in Wales as they do in England.

And in many ways, they do. Underfunded, under-resourced and staff that are over-worked. The story in Wales is as familiar as it is in England.

But there’s one important difference: the NHS in Wales is not run by the Tories, but by Labour. And it has been for 25 years.

Since the dawn of devolution, and the formation of the then National Assembly of Wales, Welsh Labour have run the government here in Wales.

Now a National Parliament, with law making powers, you might expect the NHS in Wales to be a shining example to the rest of the UK. After all, it’s founder, Aneurin Bevan was born and raised on this very soil.

Therefore, the decline of the NHS in Wales, where one in five people on a hospital waiting list, has happened on Welsh Labour’s watch.

Lack of engagement

It’s not just the underfunding – for which all paths lead inevitably back to Westminster – it’s also the complete lack of investment in social care, and a lack of engagement with worker disputes.

Because for all of the justified calls for the Tory UK Government to meet with Health Union leaders, the Labour Welsh Government which has equally avoided meaningful discussions to resolve the pay dispute.

The Welsh Government should be doing what the Scottish government is doing under the leadership of the SNP.

The Scottish Government has managed to find money for an improved pay offer which has led to two of the health unions calling off strike action.

That’s real leadership, and there’s no reason why the Welsh government can’t use the powers that it has at its disposal to do likewise.

It’s deeply frustrating to see the response by the Welsh Labour government – they’re prepared to call out the Tories, yet they’re doing exactly the same here in Wales.

Undervalued

Time and time again Plaid Cymru has urged Welsh Government to look at all the levers at their disposal – taxation, reserves, reallocation to prioritise fair pay in both the NHS and social care.

The Labour party is actually turning its back on 100 years of its own history. It was founded to be the voice for working people and the voice of the trade unions.

Yet it’s not prepared to listen to what the trade unions and workers’ representatives are saying to them in the health sector and in other sectors.

It’s only a short while ago that we all clapped from our doorsteps for the NHS staff, who are now driven to the edge by the stress that they’re under. Claps don’t pay the bills, and they feel so undervalued.

Our health and care service needs healing – and a sticking plaster won’t cut it.


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john davies
john davies
1 month ago

How exactly would Plaid Cymru use the tax raising powers of the Welsh Government to raise more money for the NHS?

Leigh Richards
Leigh Richards
1 month ago
Reply to  john davies

Er shouldnt you be asking the welsh labour govt why they refuse to use the tax raising powers theyve got to try and raise more money for the nhs in wales?

Dai Rob
Dai Rob
1 month ago
Reply to  Leigh Richards

It’s a justifiable question…..what taxes would they raise, on who,by how much, and how much would they raise. Price just showing that, despite his Economics background, he has no plan! Same as old RT!!

Llyn
Llyn
1 month ago

Fair enough but by how much will Plaid increase income tax and from what public services will money be cut to pay for more investment in social care and the NHS? We are talking about at least £200 million to pay for just pay rises for nurses.

BTW I would be happy to pay more tax for this purpose but when confronted with the stark choice I doubt the Welsh public would.

Also, the nursing unions in Scotland have rejected the Scottish Gov’s pay offer. So much for following the SNP example.

Leigh Richards
Leigh Richards
1 month ago

Definitely the welsh labour govt should use the fiscal powers it does have to try and plug the gaps in funding for the nhs in wales caused by cuts to the welsh budget by the uk treasury

Doctor Trousers
1 month ago

I’ll blame the Senedd for the state of the Welsh NHS when the Senedd has full powers to decide the budget of the Welsh NHS. That, I think, is the line of attack that Plaid should be taking with this issue, that Labour’s attachment to the union leaves us no clear route to the day where the Senedd has full NHS budgetary powers. Only independence can deliver that, and only Plaid will deliver independence. That is a cast iron argument, and it’s the sort of argument that the Yes movement needs Plaid to be making at every opportunity. To attack… Read more »

Doctor Trousers
1 month ago

I’m not sure why saying that the pro-independence party shouldn’t waste opportunities to make a pro-independence argument would go down so badly with an ostensibly pro-independence audience?

Cat
Cat
1 month ago

If only Plaid can deliver independence then why haven’t they done it? The truth is that shifting Labour to independence is the only way to deliver independence and don’t believe the tale that Labour are so wedded to the Union that this wont happen. Some in Labour are for the Union, just as some in Plaid are not particularly pro independence, but a growing number in Labour are pro independence.

Doctor Trousers
1 month ago
Reply to  Cat

I don’t disagree with you, I think the potential could well be there to drag Welsh Labour over to independence. My point is more about Plaid’s choice of tactics. It’s not that I think they shouldn’t be going on the attack, it’s that I think they’re going about it wrong in this instance. They should be making this about the union and independence, they should be saying to Welsh Labour “Yes, you’re right. The tories are responsible for the state of the NHS in Wales, as they are responsible for the state of the NHS across Britain, and the only… Read more »

Jonathan Edwards
Jonathan Edwards
30 days ago

What a muddled discussion! Assuming more money for NHS Cymru is the answer, there are 2 ways to do it. Raise taxes on our weak Welsh economy. Or increase the size of the cake ie grow the economy. We’ve known for a while that Welsh Labour can’t/won’t do either. What is baffling is that Plaid have no better answer than raising taxes. What about freedom leading to a better Welsh economy? And a better Welsh NHS? Via growth not muddling along as we are. But I can’t believe that more tax money for the Welsh NHS (or the English one)… Read more »

Owen williams
Owen williams
29 days ago

Zero positive ambition from plaid. That’s why they don’t get support, growth is key, education etc. plaid won’t provide this as they are politics of envy and mostly focussed on language, labour won’t either, Until then, more of the same.

Riki
Riki
26 days ago

Maybe they should also explain how Wales is at a major disadvantage in the western world as we aren’t able to borrow anywhere near enough for a developed nation. Everything the British (Yes, it’s British, Not Welsh) government does in Cardiff is done with one hand tied behind its back, all designed so when they fail, Welsh people go running to Westminster (English Parliament, Not British)

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