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Betsan Powys | 11:24 UK time, Tuesday, 4 March 2008

What's the secret of good comedy?

Yes, that's right: timing.

Well I imagine it raised a smile in the Hart household at least.

But the Counsel General was scowling purposefully, rather than smiling this morning. The English Health Minister, Ben Bradshaw's comments on waiting times in Wales had been "unhelpful" and had led to "unnecessary tension between two administrations within the UK".

The polite version was this:

"We endeavour, of course, not to comment on policy initiatives that are taken in England. That's a matter for the authorities in England. And, of course, we'd want to ensure that, as far as Wales is concerned, that what happens in Wales is the responsibility of the elected Welsh Assembly Government and the National Assembly. We would not comment on what happened in England ... "

Or in other words, naff off Bradshaw.

But forget for a moment who made the comments or why: what about the substance of what he had to say? Don't tell me you've forgotten that damning soundbite that "in Wales, you have to wait much longer for your operation, you have to wait much longer in A+E"?

When the dust has long since settled, it'll settle on the damage done by that very specific accusation.

It's hardly surprising that the number crunchers this end have been busy.

They've got their calculators out, if only to point out that figures on waiting times are worked out differently in England and in Wales. (Ah, another one of the joys of devolution?)

In England waiting times are calculated based only on patients who've been referred to hospital by their GP. In Wales the figures are based on patients who've come via their GP, an occupational health practitioner or if you just turn up in hospital. In other words the net is cast wider. If it wasn't then the figures, we're told, would be 'around a third less' than they are.

What are the latest figures in Wales?

Average waiting time for an operation: 127 days
93% of patients waiting less than 22 weeks for an outpatient appointment
91% waiting less than 22 weeks for the actual operation
A target that no patient should wait more than 22 weeks to see a consultant, followed by a maximum wait of 22 weeks for an operation.

And on A+E?

'Roughly' 9 out of 10 people waited for less than 4 hours in A+E
In England the figure is somewhere around 9.5 people ... though once again, the figures are calculated differently.

Does the Department of Health accept these figures? How significant is the difference in the way they're calculated? Is it fair to say they'd be 'around a third less' if the same method of calculation were used/?

In other words, do they constitute 'much longer' waiting times?

Calls are in.

Comments   Post your comment

  • 1.
  • At 04:24 PM on 04 Mar 2008,
  • Jason wrote:

First let me say I'm not Welsh, and don't live in Wales. I live in Scotland.

As I commented on Brian Taylor's (Brian is the BBC Scotland equivalent of Betsan) blog earlier this week, the Westminster authorities are seemingly hellbent on fragmenting the UK by adopting a neo-colonialist attitude to the devolved administrations when they do something of which Auntie Westminster disapproves.

Charitably, I would like to think that this is English politics being played to the English voter who looks over his only two land borders and sees different (perhaps because English voters are perceiving them as better?) things happening in both Scotland and Wales.

I wonder when (or if) the powers-that-be in London will realise that their efforts at forcing policy on the devolved administrations (they've only seemingly targetted Scotland & Wales so far - NI Assembly pay attention) are far more likely to drive the wedges further into the United Kingdom than heal the divide.

  • 2.
  • At 06:03 PM on 04 Mar 2008,
  • Veronica Newman wrote:

There is no English Health Minister Betsan!

Therre are only Welsh, Scottish and UK Ministers.

You seem to have forgotten that England has been left out of the democratic process of devolution.

  • 3.
  • At 06:54 PM on 04 Mar 2008,
  • Tyke wrote:

The decisions for England are taken by the BRITISH government, headed by the SCOTTISH Prime Minister.
The lackeys that follow his orders and kiss up to his kilt, are England's equivalent of the WW2 Vichy Govermnent in France.
Judging by some comments, we in England are meant to shed tears for those in Scotland and Wales who enjoy higher funding, access to more and free cancer drugs than us and a whole shed load of free resources, which Gordon Brown uses to favour the so-Celtic fringes and condemn England's sick and elderly to early and unecessary deaths.
Only the whinging neighbours can complain and whine about superior and free services denied to the English alone in McLabour's so-called Union.
The National Apartheid Service will be Gordon Brown's legacy. May he get all he is due at the next elections.

  • 4.
  • At 08:05 PM on 04 Mar 2008,
  • John Evans wrote:

The decisions for Wales in the 1980's were taken by an ENGLISH government, with an ENGLISH PM. We here in Wales didn't even have any Tory MP's.
Devolution was Maggie's legacy, and for than i'm very greatful.
PS when the English have no Lab MP'S and are still controlled by Lab only then will they know how we felt under the dark days of Thatcher.(silly me that can never happen)

  • 5.
  • At 08:15 PM on 04 Mar 2008,
  • Herbert Davies wrote:

Told you last night Betsan there is no significant difference in waiting times between the two countries. The main difference is that in England where targets are ruthlessly driven at the expense of quality, you are much more likely to end up with a hospital acquired infection than Wales.

The other main difference is the government here is socialist and the Westminister Government isn't.

Anyway I thought Edwina had already won the bout on points but still tagged Carwyn to finish him off. Don't think he will be stepping in the ring with her again soon......

The English should be given referenda just as the Scots and Welsh have been given.

All the UK should be given referenda on independence for each constituent country.

None of us will care about waiting times in the other's country when we are free of each other.

  • 7.
  • At 10:19 AM on 05 Mar 2008,
  • Roy Bennett wrote:

Comment to John Evans re: Wales did not have any Tory MPs during the 80s. Wrong! Wrong! Wrong! I realise that good old Monmouthshire is a thorn in the side of the Welsh separatists, but get your facts right. Since 1918 we have only had two non-Conservative MPs. 1) 1966-1970: Donald Anderson, Labour and 2) 1991-1992 & 1997-2005: Huw Edwards, Labour. And yes, before your prejudices show any further, I am and always have been a Labour voter.

  • 8.
  • At 11:25 AM on 05 Mar 2008,
  • Rhisiart wrote:

John Evans - you're wrong, I'm afraid. There were 14 Tory MPs elected in Wales in 1983, 8 in 1987 and 6 in 1992. Only in 1997 and 2001 (which were, of course, Labour victories) were no Conservatives elected for Welsh constituencies.

On the key point, Ben Bradshaw is a Minister in the UK Dept of Health which, however, has no power over the NHS in Wales, Scotland or N Ireland; whose funding is limited to England; and whose Chief Medical Officer only comments for England. So he is, to all intents and purposes, an English Health Minister. (And his constituency is Exeter, which I think is quite some way from Scotland!)

  • 9.
  • At 04:31 PM on 05 Mar 2008,
  • seren wrote:

It seems this modest reform has caused some squealing across Offa's Dyke. Just what is their problem?
I'm also intrigued at the suggestion that health care will suffer as a result. Are we seriously suggesting that health care in the Welsh NHS is dependent on parking fees?
More serious is the news that some hospitals in Wales (e.g. Neath) will be continuing to charge until 2032 because of the Private Finance Initiative has effectively privatised the maintenance of these institutions.

  • 10.
  • At 07:58 PM on 05 Mar 2008,
  • David B. Wildgoose wrote:

John Evans, the decisions in the 1980s were taken by a BRITISH government, not an "English" one.

And just as you apparently object to non-Welsh having any say in Wales, we English are objecting to MPs for constituencies outside of England having any say in England.

After all, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have all rejected rule by the British Parliament in favour of Home Rule. The only difference is that we English weren't given the same option and the British Parliament is determined to keep us as second class citizens taxed to pay for the first class status of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

  • 11.
  • At 11:20 PM on 05 Mar 2008,
  • T Banner wrote:

Recent policy announcements from the WAG do nothing to reassure me that they are capable of managing further powers. The WAG is not socialist - it is increasingly nationalist. We are moving away from democracy to authoritarianism in Wales where any view different from that of the Welsh establishment is met with outrage. Debate is being stifled.

  • 12.
  • At 11:32 PM on 05 Mar 2008,
  • John Evans wrote:

David B Wildgoose In the 1980's there were times when there was not one single Tory MP in Wales. All the decisions during that time effecting every aspects of life in Wales was taken by English MP's.
PS we do not have home rule in Wales we have very limited devolution.

If you'd listened to the English health minister you would have heard him say that you have a much better health service in England, partly due to the fact that we have so many English people retiring to wales burdening out heath service.

Finally i'd love England to have its own Parliament, every Scottish Welsh and Irish nationalist would

  • 13.
  • At 04:10 PM on 06 Mar 2008,
  • Lyn David Thomas wrote:

As long as the funding of the National Assembly budget is directly tied to expenditure in England all Welsh MPs will have a legitimate right to vote on English only matters. Once that link is cut and a needs based formula put in place then there is no need for Welsh MPs to vote on purely English matters.

As others have said the idea that car parking fees are in of themselves paying for the health service is laughable. Free prescriptions are a good idea, and ultimately when fees were phased on finally the cost of collection for the charges almost outweighed the charges coming in!

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