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The lady's not for turning

Betsan Powys | 15:22 UK time, Friday, 28 March 2008

A few weeks ago a couple of ambassadors from the Assembly came to Broadcasting House in Llandaf. They were on a mission to explain to journalists what the Assembly and the Assembly Government can and can't do.

They happened to mention the inquiry into presumed consent for organ donation: should presumed consent - or perhaps could it be - introduced in Wales.

"So ... are you saying that if presumed donation went ahead in Wales" asked someone who'd been taking copious notes, "that if died here your body would be treated one way but if you happened to die during an away-day to Hereford, you'd be treated ... differently?"

That's devolution for you. It means you could be treated differently in Wales - dead or alive.

You get the feeling that today, NHS staff in Wales will be rather more interested in the latter.

What will they be making of Edwina Hart's rebuffal of plans to offer staff working in Welsh hospitals extra legal protection from violence and abuse, as is being offered to their English colleagues?

Not a lot says Baroness Finlay of Llandaff. Going it alone is 'madness' and will lead to a brain-drain from Welsh hospitals.

Not a lot says Alun Michael MP who - having turned his fire on Whitehall officials for failing to keep Wales in the loop - has had to retrain his fire, rather quickly, on those who wanted to stay out of the loop.

It took her a while but when the Health Minister came out, she came out fighting.

She's not interested in doing things in a particularly 'Welsh' way. She's interested in doing things in the best way possible and that, she says, on this occasion is her way and not Whitehall's.

Who needs new laws? What healthworkers need is real, practical protection, not laws that look good on paper but are rarely used to offer real protection.

What sort of practical protection might she offer then? She'll tell us in a few months' time but let's be clear: Mrs Hart was not for turning.

But hang on a minute. Doesn't this whole story turn on the fact that though health is a devolved matter, criminal justice is not? And so isn't it up to the Justice Department to include Wales in its new legislation, whether the Welsh Health Minister likes it or not?

Yes it is. And as if to underline the point, a statement arrives from the Ministry of Justice. It's not dissimilar to the one they released yesterday.

Spot the small but crucial difference.

Yesterday: "Health is a devolved matter in Wales ... We are discussing the issue of the extension of this provision to NHS premises in Wales with the Department of Health, Wales Office and the Welsh Assembly Government."

Today: "Health is a devolved matter in Wales ... We are discussing the issue of the extension of this provision to NHS premises in Wales with the Wales Office and the Department of Health".

Which means the iron Health Minister might not turn but the UK government will do it for her.

That's devolution for you.

Comments   Post your comment

  • 1.
  • At 08:44 AM on 29 Mar 2008,
  • Penyberth wrote:

This change is in criminal justice not in health, criminal justice is not a devolved matter. Westminster should have imposed these new measures on the Assembly...on this occasion the Welsh Iron Lady is wrong!!

  • 2.
  • At 06:43 PM on 29 Mar 2008,
  • dismayedmedic wrote:

Perhaps after a member of the front line NHS staff in Wales is seriously injured or worse (and I pray to God this doesn't happen), that the WAG will sit up and pay attention to us and offer us every protection they can.

To say the minster has a better solution due in a few months time is not going to console the abused and injured of us out there.


  • 3.
  • At 08:20 PM on 29 Mar 2008,
  • Howell Morgan wrote:

The real point about this is who made the decision after referral from Departmentof Justice. Was it Edwina Hart on her own or was it discussed with Rhodri Morgan other Ministers or even put to the general meetings of AM's.This did not appear in print or television and is a very important issu.How many times has Edwuna Hartstopped matters being applied to Wales by our Parliament. This issue highlights the fallacy of devolution as within a unitary country such as the UK there are multiplicity of policies or eventually will be if further powers are granted to WAG. What is going to happen when a conservative government makes major changes to NHS as Prime Minister Blair would have done if he had been able. The non applicability of such changes as eventually is bound to happen because it is impossible to run a nationalized health system and also meet the needs of an increasingly wealth middle class who are not prepared to wait in line for services. The answer is as outlined by Elin Jones i.e. Independance which is the aim of Plaid Cymru. The partnership between Labour and Plaid Cymru is the most "unstable" pact since Hitler and Stalin signed their "non aggression pact"in the late 1930's. I find it reprehensible that as a keen supporter of the principle of the UK that I have people in charge of "MY" administration in Wales that is actively seeking to destroy an entity that has stood my working classs family in good stead over the past many years. Thank god that my children benefited from the Thatcher years and have found employment in the private sector in Enghland where their talents are not dependant upon speaking Welsh or sucking up to the third rate politicians in Cardiff Bay.

  • 4.
  • At 11:12 AM on 30 Mar 2008,
  • Lyn David Thomas wrote:

I am not so sure, what extra benefits are there in yet another law when we have laws that criminalise assault, causing fear or disturbing the peace. There seems to be a belief that by just creating new offenses you some how deal with the problem. From the experience of my friends in the NHS, and those that have left it due to violence against them, the problem is not with the law, there are plenty of laws to deal with people, but with management not taking threats, intimidation and violence against staff seriously. So instead of waiting another 18 months for a new law to come into effect working with the health service to produce a strategy that puts staff protection at the heart of reducing violence would pay dividends much quicker.

  • 5.
  • At 01:26 PM on 30 Mar 2008,
  • simon Joseph wrote:

NHS staff in Wales need not worry, the "change" in protection offered by the new legislation - is illusory. As with much of the criminal law introduced in recent years old laws properly enforced would cover any imaginable situations. Unpleasant, abusive or violent visitors can be excluded or arrested if they wont go now so what's new? Nothing the "new law" adds nothing to that! Good for you Ms Hart!

  • 6.
  • At 05:17 PM on 30 Mar 2008,
  • Glyn Morris wrote:

The new proposals on abuse and violent behaviour are only creating new offfences which are already covered nby exsisting laws. It is a smokescreen which will make no difference. Prehaps the assembly will come uo with actual proposals (greater secruity etc) that actually proves effective,

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