The way forward for health?


Unveiling a "new vision" is a tricky business at the best of times. When it involves changes to the health service, tricky just doesn't cover it.

There's the question of how 'new' it truly is, how much of a 'vision' as opposed to a half decent, practical plan, how likely it is to be turned into reality - oh, and yes, it won't mean my local hospital closing, will it? Just you wait to hear what the opposition parties have to say about that.

Mind you anything 'visionary', according to their AMs, is distinctly lacking around Cardiff Bay these days.

At their briefing this morning Plaid Cymru seemed prepared to admit that the Education Minister, Leighton Andrews, "appears to be" getting on with job of thinking hard and thinking big about changes to the Welsh education system.

The Local Government Minister, Carl Sergeant, got an honourable mention too "but they are exceptions."

The translator had his work cut out. Alun Ffred Jones banged the table as he spelled out just how gobsmacked he is with what he regards as Labour inaction on boosting the Welsh economy. He could only "rhyfeddu" - be amazed. "Labour is a party elected on a pledge to stand up for Wales. I don't get it. What are they doing??" The second question mark is mine. The frustration with the Labour government his. "Let it prove that it is NOT adrift".

The Liberal Democrats raised the issue of European funding. How is it, they asked, that while 59 of the 66 European regions who received EU cash are now relatively better off, Wales' relative GDP has declined? "It is a damning verdict on the Welsh Government's economic competence".

For the Conservatives Andrew R T Davies took up the cudgels over health.

Six months after the election "where is the Labour vision? I can't think of an incoming government anywhere, on an issue that takes up 40% of its budget, that would not ... have come forward with a clear route map on delivering the policies they fought the election on."

You sense a theme developing. In May Labour did what they do very well in Wales - they held on to power. What are they doing with it?

The Health Minister is just getting to her feet to spell out what she intends to do with her bit of it. She'll unveil not just a "route map" but a "new 5 year vision" that will tell us what the health service in Wales will look like in future.

You can read the document, Together for Health, as a whole here.

If you do, you may well spot commitments that don't sound that 'new'. Delivering care closer to home? District general hospitals to stay open but to evolve while specialist services are centralised in centres of excellence? Concentrating on prevention rather than the expensive business of curing?

You'd be hard pressed to find anyone with an interest in healthcare who'd regard any of those ideas as 'new'. Anyone who read Designed for Life published back in 2005 could probably quote them back at you.

At a briefing this morning the Health Minister seemed prepared to concede as much. Yes, said Lesley Griffiths, this is a continuation of Labour's thinking on the best way forward for healthcare but "today we're just taking it that bit further". "The newness" added David Sissling, the Chief Executive of NHS Wales "is in the way it is put together. It is more than the sum of its parts".

What that means, I think, is this: with fewer, larger Local Health Boards the government thinks its chances of delivering these changes, this time, are much, much better. It is also clear to everyone involved that there is no money to spare so, frankly, what is given from the top will just have to be made to work locally.

There will be new targets and a new onus on Health Boards to publish performance records.

Policy and direction will come from the top. Delivery will be bottom up. I lost count of the words used to hammer that one home. There was "rapid translation" to local delivery, "a rapid switch" to local delivery - only that will allow the government to deliver a world-class health service - that was the vision of Dr Chris Jones, medical Director of the NHS.

What is truly 'new', perhaps, is the urgency with which it's being presented. The vision might not be entirely new but this time? We mean it.

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

A big day for health in Wales

A day of big health stories in Wales is capped with a potentially very significant announcement.

Read full article


This entry is now closed for comments

Jump to comments pagination
  • rate this

    Comment number 16.

    13 tredwyn

    Did you get your rose tinted spectacles on the Welsh NHS or did you go to SpecSavers?

    Can YOU remember how many NHS reviews and re-organisations we've had since the Welsh Regional Assembly Government took over from the Welsh Office? I, and I'm sure lots of others, really would like to know... And the combined costs if you have them?

    Now is a good time to put up or shut up...

  • rate this

    Comment number 15.

    14. I've got a long memory and there can be no doubt that King Rhodri had absolutely "world class" treatment from NHS as do all his humble subjects who live in this socialistic paradise. The real world is however less than perfect and I drone on about the private medicine that is available both within and without the NHS in wales.If its so WONDERFUL why is there need to go PRIVATE?. Its finished.

  • rate this

    Comment number 14.

    (For those with longer memories)

    Better, more responsive treatment from the Welsh NHS......?

    Tis simple.....

    Just change your name to Rhodri Morgan .

  • rate this

    Comment number 13.


    If the fact-free whinging on this blog is typical of the Welsh electorate, then however poor our politicians they are no worse than we deserve. More facts, fewer urban myths, more constructive criticism and less one-eyed, prejudiced moaning would be awfully nice.

  • rate this

    Comment number 12.

    @11 'dispozest'. I read al 11 comments, and it appears your post sums up The Welsh National Assembly members incompetance on NHS in Wales in spite of £millions.

    Perhaps the Welsh Assembly are too busy re-inventing the wheel to justify their salaries/tax-free allowances/private healthcare and EU obsessions to consider what's under their nose. The people of Wales?


Comments 5 of 16



Copyright © 2015 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.