A health check on Labour pledges


Trouble comes in all shapes and sizes.

In Westminster David Cameron is in the firing line for trying to persuade his party to introduce something that wasn't in its manifesto.

In Cardiff Carwyn Jones is having to defend his government for not introducing something that was in his party's manifesto.

We're in "monumental climbdown", "U-turn", "broken pledge" territory. Instead of health checks with the doctor for all over 50s in Wales, they will instead be offered an "innovative" alternative at a time and place that suits them. In other words, the initial health check will be face to face with a computer screen instead.

Visit the 2011 Labour manifesto (yes, it too is online) and you'll see that the pledge they made then was clear enough:

Instigate a programme of annual health checks, led by GPs, practice nurses, pharmacists and other health professionals, for everyone over the age of 50 over the next Assembly term.

When the real work was put in to discover what it would cost to deliver - and what it would actually deliver the patient - it turned out be not such a good idea after all.

The Liberal Democrats pointed out this morning that when they asked GPs what they made of the pledge, their survey said "uh uh!" (Insert Kirsty Williams in Les Dennis/Vernon Kay mode.) "Labour should admit they stuck something in a manifesto that sounded good and would be popular - no more" she added. Labour would be forgiven for suggesting Lib Dems know a thing or two about that. and as we put it in Welsh, 'it takes a clean bird to sing'.

The opposition parties seem to accept the government's probably right not to deliver this one. Their problem is that they promised in the run-up to the election that they could and would.


"The health checks programme will provide a modern gateway to prevention and health information services in Wales, which can help people over the age of 50 to make choices to support better health and wellbeing."

In other words, over 50s can go online later this year, when the government has worked out how the service can be delivered, and those who actually need to see a GP can be identified and encouraged to visit the doctor.

It's more "second class substitute" than "modern gateway" say the Conservatives. Is it really worth pressing ahead with spending nearly three quarters of a million pounds over the coming financial year on a website ask Plaid Cymru, when other similar online advice sites already exist and where you'll inevitably attract the so-called "worried well" in enthusiastic droves? Better take the hit over a broken pledge (and Plaid know their fair share about that sort of thing too) than plough more money into a pretty expensive fig leaf, seems to be their take.

Yes, it's health again, the service that Carwyn Jones warned a few days ago would "collapse" unless it is reformed. The awkward truth for Mr Jones, of course, is not that he's wrong but that his party has been in charge of delivering health care in Wales since 1999. How do you argue successfully that reform is critical, when the service you're talking about was made by successive governments all led by your own party? The answer, of course, is that you point to Westminster public spending cuts and condemn the coalition for forcing your hand to make deeper cuts than you believe are right. But as Labour appeared to accept a few weeks ago, their constituents may sometimes feel that alibi can wear a little thin.

In three months' time Carwyn Jones' government will be two years old. It's a government and a leadership based on one word more than any other - delivery. If Mr Jones wasn't planning on delivering a coalition-style "full, frank and unvarnished progress report" he'll know now that opposition parties are very much on the case.

Betsan Powys Article written by Betsan Powys Betsan Powys Former political editor, Wales

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  • rate this

    Comment number 17.

    come on now Boxer! the word is 'canser' !!

  • rate this

    Comment number 16.

    #15 'healthcare guidance from English NHS ....has no Welsh translation' But, why would it? Cymdeithas says that "We" want a world where "we" can live our lives in Welsh. The majority of people don't agree. If you live in a small country, you use the most appropriate language.There will never be a Welsh 'Google'. Welsh for your mates, English for technical bulletins. No more " Y Breast Cancer".

  • rate this

    Comment number 15.

    Most people in Wales do not realise that Welsh NHS is light years behind the quality of care English patients have at all levels Welsh Government has imposed disproportionate Welsh language measures that harm patients and Welsh patients are deprived of healthcare guidance from English NHS as it has no Welsh translation and therefore never displayed in Welsh HC settings

  • rate this

    Comment number 14.

    BTW Could the site find a way of leaving comments that have been referred for further consideration live on 'View your previous comments'. Since these are presumably only available to the author, they won't shock anyone. This would allow the author to read it again in the cold light of day and maybe see where he had gone wrong.

  • rate this

    Comment number 13.

    #10 My point was not that a sum of £90M or thereabouts was too little to worry about. It was that it was either niaive or dishonest to flash the sum of close to £600M about in making the argument.

  • rate this

    Comment number 12.

    Politicians may change but non delivery lives on. Welsh politicans over the last few decades have done little if anything for this fine nation. Lets face it for many years Labour could have put up a donkey and they would have been voted in and in my opinion that is what happened. And we have PC doing the exact same. Unfortunately until we hold our politicans to account nothing will change.

  • rate this

    Comment number 11.

    The usual dross from CJ and the rest of the political elite at the WA. I see from Betsans comments that the "opposition parties" agree with CJ.
    Our inept AM's also agree that it is right that
    1 The Welsh NHS does not provide IVF and sends patients to England
    2 Fails to provide services to the deaf and hard of hearing throughout Wales
    Sad that a few people actually believe the WA is right

  • rate this

    Comment number 10.

    The point being Boxer, that there would be a % that pay and therfore costs are saved! Say only 15% pay - thats £88.5 million!
    Isnt that a nice sum of money to be used?
    If that figure was an over spend on a project or plan, there would be uproar.
    Of course its not easy, but thats there job and thats what we pay them for.

  • rate this

    Comment number 9.

    ... Carwyn said just a few days ago "the public wanted a safe and sustainable NHS", this proposal for an online alternative to the manifesto promise just "doesn't cut the mustard".

    A health check needs contact between professional and public, the preferred model would probably be similar to the diabetic revue performed by a practice nurse ...

    ... a budget commitment, prioritising services ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 8.

    #6 Alf, could you explain why Wales - that has as much rain-swept, mountainous, agriculturally-marginal land as Cumbria - should export its nuclear waste there. Given the security problems of transport, a nearer second site might even work out cheaper.

  • rate this

    Comment number 7.

    And given that the tories said they would introduce prescriptions for the wealthy at about £2 a throw then the cost of collecting them would be higher than the money raised!

  • rate this

    Comment number 6.

    Digressing again. Did anyone hear Carwyn on the radio this morning having great difficulty trying to get out of answering a simple question about where the nuclear waste from the new site to be on Ynys Mon would go. the more he was asked the same question 4 times the deeper he was digging his hole. it was embarrassing. Cumbria CC have refused permission for a new waste site.

  • rate this

    Comment number 5.

    #3 ' £590 Million per year for free perscriptions. ' (sic)

    But what we need to know is what % of these would be paid for under current NHS(Eng) rules, or any different rules WG prefer. By the time you pay for the chronic sick, children, hospital patients , all OAPs (??), unemployed, all on benefits, what % is left that would pay ??

  • rate this

    Comment number 4.

    I wouldn't have gone for an annual check anyway 'cos I don't want one! That's the part that Llafur got wrong - AGAIN - more dumb third-rate micro-management of other peoples' lives.

    Stress makes people ill and I've come to the conclusion that bunch of serial failures in Cardiff Bay are doing us all more harm than good.

    Anybody know what colour wheelie-bin we put political rubbish in these days?

  • rate this

    Comment number 3.

    Shambles, utter Shambles! More waste of money, yet again.
    £590 Million per year for free perscriptions. Well CJ, stop chucking the cash around to people that dont need it and put it into real front line healthcare!!
    Yes free perscriptions to Old, unemployed, Disabled etc. But why the hell give it to every tom dick and harry in Wales. Vote gaining policys that we all have to suffer with.

  • rate this

    Comment number 2.

    I seem to remember a recent statistic of 34% of adults in Wales are digitally excluded the majority being over 50, so how is this climb down policy going to help them if they have no internet.?

    Funding for health in Wales was given a Barnett boost because of UK govt funding but it is not hypothecated, it is WG that set the allocation for health in Wales and chose not allocate it to health.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1.

    We are getting use to the idea that government will say one thing and then forget about it, or say no we did not. In Llanelli a few years ago we were going to get a real nice sports car manufacturer, then of course the election came the car manufacturing was not forthcoming and nobody bothered. But labour won....

    I would not believe a politician if he said my house was on fire and I could see it.


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