Speech to the Welsh Assembly
"In proposing my amendment, I will give two sets of congratulations. First, we congratulate NHS staff. Whenever we debate these matters, the Government says that we are seeking to undermine the staff of the NHS. Nothing could be further from the truth.
"We know that the excellent staff who work in the NHS do so under difficult circumstances, in a health service that is driven by an interfering Minister, who uses targets that get in the way of clinical judgment.
"Secondly, I congratulate the Government for putting the most incredible amount of gloss on this report. It is an astounding triumph of spin over substance.
"Thank goodness I have a sense of humour. You need a sense of humour to read the Government's motion and learn that the Government is using this report as some sort of endorsement of Government practice and policy. Nothing could be further from the truth.
This report drives a coach and horses through the Government's policy and strategic approach over the last five year.
In its criticisms, it clearly says that money is wasted, patients do not receive an effective service, staff are let down, and we do not have the strategic approach that Wanless and the Audit Commission endorse.
It is laughable that a Minister can state that a report that underlines the dire circumstances in which the NHS finds itself, is somehow an endorsement of Government policy.
It is interesting when a Minister stands at the front of the Chamber desperately trying to get through a speech written by civil servants —knowing full well that this is probably the worst report on the state of the NHS that we have had in five years. To see that troubled Minister sit down and not one Member of her party cheering in support reminds me of the Labour backbenchers in London sitting behind the Prime Minister during question time, stony faced, terrified to move, not willing to cheer because they know that he is in trouble.
That is what we have here today - an incompetent health Minister who is in trouble, and who has presided over the decline of the NHS in Wales.
Under her, staff morale has collapsed and the number of beds in Wales has fallen by over 3 per cent.
The people of Wales know that the health service is not delivering what the Labour Party promised.
The report is clear on finance. It says that
'increasingly the issue is that the money is not being used effectively'.
That says that you are wasting taxpayers' money. You are throwing money at a problem without effectively reforming the service. The Audit Commission's report is clear on that.
How on earth can the people of Wales trust the Labour Party when it says that we need to reform the health service in Wales?
The report also contradicts the usual line spun by the Government that because we are sicker in Wales we cannot sort out health service problems.
It clearly states in the report that the whole system of health and social care is not organised to the best effect.
It drives a coach and horses through the Government's argument that because the nation is sicker, people must put up with a second- or third-rate health service.
The Government spin-doctors must now revise their rebuttals for when reports of this nature are published in the future.
It is clear that we need a strategic approach. Twenty-two local Wanless action plans will not deliver an all-Wales strategic approach. Wanless did not call for 22 local action plans and neither does this report.
There is the term 'integrated'. How on earth will you integrate 22 local Wanless action plans? We need a national strategic approach.
We have a philosophical problem in that the Minister likes to interfere. You cannot interfere in the day-to-day running of the health service on the one hand, and have a strategic approach as a Minister on the other. You do one or the other.
Having local Wanless action plans, local this and local that, and none of them linked between one local health board and another, demonstrates the extent to which we have a Minister who sees her role as running the health service. That is what we see in this debate.
I have read Wanless and the Audit Commission report; clearly, most Labour Members have not.
In conclusion, the Minister should consider that, on page 18, the report states that there is 'now widespread demand from professional advisory bodies to concentrate medical workforce in fewer, although larger, acute hospitals.'
That means hospital closures. Minister, have you considered this section of the report?
It is linked to reconfiguration, but what consideration have you given to which hospitals may have to close? What will that mean to staff, and what will it mean for the delivery of patient care?
The bottom line, Minister, is that you have failed over the past five years. It is now down to the First Minister."