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Morgan: Labour is bad news for the health of Wales

To the Welsh Conservative Party conference in Llandudno.

"Thank you Ladies and Gentlemen,

Since I last addressed this conference in Llandudno as the Party's Health Spokesman back in 2004, much has changed down in Cardiff Bay.

As many of you will have seen on Wednesday, we have a shinny and rather impressive new building.

And we have a decidedly less impressive and somewhat less shinny new Health Minister.

I imagine many of you are wondering just how either of them are likely to be of any benefit to you or the quality of health care you can expect courtesy of the Welsh Assembly Government.

In replacement for that shinning beacon of Ministerial success Jane Hutt, we now have Dr Gibbons who, rather perversely represents an area of Wales nationally recognised as the least healthy place to live in the UK!

Mind you, faced with that vast ocean of talent that is the Labour back benches, I think we might all have some difficulty in forming a cabinet.

I would love to report that the NHS in Wales had turned the corner since this long overdue change of staff.

Sadly, I'm afraid the news is not good. Two-hundred and eighty thousand people - that's nearly the entire population of Cardiff - are stuck on an NHS waiting list.

The amount of your money spent on the NHS in Wales is now over £4 ½ billion. That's twice the amount spent in the last year of a Conservative Government.

And where is that money going? Let me try and shed some light on that for you.

There are today more bureaucrats working for the Welsh health department than there are practice nurses working in doctors surgeries up and down the county.

The number of pen pushers has risen some 54% since Labour took control in Cardiff.

The Government's advertising bill - a host of TV slots lecturing and 'nannying' the Welsh people on how to live their lives - is now £2.5 million.

Meanwhile, local health boards up and down the country face record debt, unable to afford life saving drugs such as Herceptin because of their crippling overdrafts.

And then, there are the broken promises.

Labour promised everyone in Wales access to an NHS dentist. Incidentally, you have more chance of matching four numbers on the National Lottery than you have of finding an NHS dentist!

Labour promised to cut waiting lists.

Labour promised that no one would wait more than 4 hours in A&E.

Stop me if you're noticing a trend here…

And only a fortnight ago, Labour decided they would no longer honour their flagship promise of free home care for the disabled in Wales.

This is not just a breach of trust for every single person who voted for the Labour Party - it is fundamental deception of the Welsh people.

In the 1999 election they made promises and broke them. In 2003 they made more promises, and then broke them too.

How on earth do they expect the public to trust them in 2007?

In their defence, the Labour Party have been forced to listen, albeit belatedly, to the Welsh Conservatives.

Only last month, the Labour Assembly Government announced that it had decided to employ a private organisation to provide 26,000 dental places across Wales to make up its own woeful failure in improving public dental services.

Though entirely against their intention to provide NHS dentists, we on the Conservative benches warmly welcomed this approach.

So I make this commitment to beleaguered Brian.

Don't worry about the rebels on your own benches - if you are prepared to pursue Conservative policies, you can rely on our support to push them through!

If you want to use the private sector to solve the crisis your party created, we will support you.

And if you ever decide to slash targets, we'll support you on that as well.

Don't worry Brian, you rely on us! Three years ago, we called for the backlog of 300,000 patients across Wales stranded on an NHS waiting list to be offered treatment in the private sector.

Brian seemed to agree so gradually, and in a rather convoluted fashion, this is now happening through the so called 'Second Offer Scheme'.

Unfortunately, Dr Gibbons has even managed to make a mess of this.

The 'second offer' for those stranded on 18 month waits is so often not even a realistic offer.

For the elderly, without means of transport, an offer of treatment in Eastern or Northern England isn't exactly what they or their families want.

One in three patients have declined the second offer of treatment since it was introduced because the Assembly Government have made it impossible for patients to accept the offer.

But so far as Dr Gibbons is concerned, if people don't accept an offer then it's not his fault!

The Health Minister seems quite as ease with his conscience to let this situation continue indefinitely and has, quote "no plans to adjust the system".

Likewise he says there is no postcode lottery in the NHS.

Try telling that to the cancer patients, those needing kidney dialysis. Tell that to Jayne Sullivan on her valiant Herceptin crusade.

The political stewardship of NHS Wales has been the most unmitigated disaster ever seen in modern British politics.

The British Medical Association, one of the foremost professional bodies within the health care sector passed a vote of no confidence in the Welsh Assembly Government.

Relations between frontline staff and the political leadership have sunk to a new low under Dr Gibbons and morale in hospitals up and down Wales has been push to breaking point.

Nurses are bullied into meeting targets at the expense of patient care.

Doctors are expected to meet impossible financial challenges and whilst providing that first class level of service we have come to expect.

Hospital wards are frequently closed because of infection outbreaks with professionals forced to make do with what little space they have left.

Quite frankly, from where I'm standing, the NHS on Wales is being led down a path which will ultimately destroy it if urgent action isn't taken soon.

Labour are sinking the NHS - our party is gearing up to save it.

The first thing I would like to see as Health Minister would be a comprehensive audit of every single bureaucrat in the Health department.

It is simply not possible for a service which has not grown significantly or seen an increase in the number of patients it serves can possibly require 1,000 extra pen pushers.

Secondly, I would like to see the hopeless duplication of effort caused by the breaking up of the five old health authorities into 22 local health boards eradicated.

We simply don't need 22 local health boards - we should be aiming for double figures.

If I am the next Welsh Health Minister, look out!

We need urgent reform - we need to give our doctors, nurses and hospitals the freedom and resources the so desperately need.

And we need to assure patients that they will come first.

As Welsh Conservatives, we would offer patients real choice, unlike the second offer scheme, where people who have been waiting longest can expect quality and speedy local treatment.

Ladies and gentlemen - I am fed up. Fed up with Wales getting second best. Fed up with our professionals being undervalued and under-resourced.

Fed up with Ministers interfering in the day to day running of the NHS.

I want to be the next Health Minister to save our National Health Service. So come with me and let us rescue it.

Thank you."

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