Speech to the Welsh Assembly
"It never fails to amaze me how Labour Members continue to explain away their monumental failure to deliver on their manifesto promises by putting the blame on a Government that left office over seven years ago.
One of their speakers came out with this tired old figure of 70 hospital closures.
It has been explained before, and we will explain again, that hospital closures are a part of life — they are closed, refurbished, opened up again, and sometimes are replaced by other hospitals.
In my constituency, the Monmouth community hospital will shortly close. You will not see me signing petitions calling for it to stay open, and neither will you see me making political points or political capital out of it, because it is closing so that a new, all-in-one health facility can open in its place.
Hospital closures are a part of life, and we do not make political points out of it. I certainly do not, anyway, because I am not a member of the Liberal Democrat Party, but that is another story.
Labour Members must realise that talking about their failure to tackle the waiting list problem is not a matter of point scoring, but of fact.
I have a letter here from a gentleman who lives on the Kymin, which, for those who do not know Monmouthshire, is right on the border. Part of it is in Wales and part in England. Let me just read you one sentence.
'In Wales, one of the targets from the Welsh Assembly Government for health services, is to ensure that nobody waits more than 18 months for treatment.'
It goes on to say that private sector contracts agreed in England are to assist English hospitals to meet a six-month waiting time target. So there you have it in black and white from the Monmouthshire Local Health Board, which wrote this letter at the behest of our Minister for Health and Social Services, Jane Hutt.
The fact is that, in England, the waiting target is six months, and in Wales it is 18 months.
The NHS in Wales is certainly not the envy of the world. It is not the envy of anyone who lives the other side of the border.
I am particularly concerned for osteoporosis sufferers in Monmouthshire because, after 18 months, we still do not have an osteoporosis specialist in the county.
It is disgraceful that people have to travel many miles and/or go private to receive the treatment that they need. None of them are receiving Forsteo, which, I understand, the National Institute for Clinical Excellence is currently considering.
In the latest bulletin for April, there is no mention of osteoporosis, despite the desperate need of some sufferers.
It does mention, however, insomnia and the drugs that will be prescribed for that. I recommend that doctors simply advise people to log on to the website and look at the press releases being issued by Jane Hutt.
In conclusion, there is no way that you can have a 1945-style welfare state or a 1948 national health service today. We need to change the system.
Those are not my words: they are the words of Tony Blair, the leader of the Labour Party, and I suggest, Minister, that you take note, stand up and start listening to what your own leader is saying, and follow what is being done in England.
We cannot continue with the present situation, and if you cannot change it, Minister, and reduce waiting lists, then it is time for you to go."