The Minister's end of term report



That's the maths in the Assembly chamber and for the first time since Carwyn Jones formed his government (a budget aside) he's being reminded of how the figures add up.

The three opposition parties have come together to table a motion of no confidence in the Health Minister. That's significant. It's the first time they have co-operated at this level since the last election.

If the opposition have Lesley Griffiths in their cross hairs, there's no question who Labour are going after on this one. Plaid, they say, are the party with a 'supposedly left wing leader' who says one thing but who, when it comes down to it, does another. Plaid, the chink in the opposition armour. Plaid who've been told by their own senior members - let's take a flying leap here and assume they were talking about Dafydd Elis-Thomas AM and former AM and party chair Helen Mary Jones - that they're doing badly in elections precisely because they're seen to be too close to the Tories.

What do they do now say Labour? Line up with the Tories. Lessons of history, doomed to repeat, and so on.

In the meantime, what of Professor Marcus Longley's report - the one that's caused all the trouble over the past 48 hours?

Both the Health Minister and the First Minister accused the opposition yesterday of failing to appreciate the "context" of the emails.

That context is critical, but much of that context is still unclear, which is one reason why this row is dragging on.

We asked yesterday morning -and are still asking today - for a copy of the terms of reference that he was given. In broad brush strokes: was Professor Longley asked to use all his knowledge and expertise to sift through the evidence and come to a conclusion about whether change was needed in the NHS (with a tacit acceptance on all sides that the answer was pretty much bound to be yes) and suggest what those changes should be? That fits the bill of an independent report - just.

Or was he asked, as the government's Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Jewell suggested on Radio Wales this morning, to write an arm's length report which set out the clinical case for change and bring his expertise to bear to make the case for change and deliver the killer argument for the government, and the health boards' case?

The pre-amble to the Freedom of Information request, we revealed yesterday, says this:

"The report produced by Professor Longley is owned by the Health Boards and the NHS Confederation, and its purpose is to articulate the reasons why Health Boards need to change services, and to help Health Boards in engaging with their communities about the future of hospital services in Wales".

So, Professor Longley was commissioned to articulate the need to change services. In the light of that remit, wouldn't his his emails asking for "killer facts" seem reasonable enough?

But in the Written Statement published on the day his report was launched, this was how the Health Minister described the report to fellow Assembly Members:

"In January 2012, the NHS in Wales commissioned Professor Marcus Longley of the Welsh Institute for Health and Social Care to undertake an independent assessment of the evidence on NHS service change, in particular, looking at the best configuration of hospital services for Wales".

So, was he commissioned to independently assess the evidence on change, or to articulate the case for change? Which one, ask the opposition parties, was it?

And if it was the former, why did the Health Minister claim it was the latter - and put an independent academic in a very difficult position when his emails to government officials came to light, emails which make a bit more sense if the brief was to argue a case, not weigh up the available evidence.

The end of term is in sight. The end to this row? No chance.

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

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  • rate this

    Comment number 6.

    4. Alf. For once I agree with you 100%. Its not long ago that King Rhodri took the labour Party into government with Plaid Cymru,and if my memory is correct our FM was part of the One Wales Government.What ever the rights and wrongs in this particular case the Health Minister did'nt do anything without the full backing of Carwyn Jones,who looks like one of those people over-promoted and useless.

  • rate this

    Comment number 7.

    3rd rate Government with 3rd rate ministers.

    They wallow in the belief of the Labour divine right to rule Wales instead of doing the best for Wales by building concensus across the divide left or right.
    What do they do when caught in the headlights, blame other parties for not being socialist, well CJ, being socialist is doing right by the people in this case PC are correct to side with others.

  • rate this

    Comment number 2.

    In light of the above information regarding asking Professor Longley to 'confirm' agreed policy by WAG of re-ordering NHS services,or providing independant advice then it looks a 'fix' to me. The next things to get are surely the minutes of meetings of WAG,and supporting reports etc etc. If the 30 AM's collectively approve a vote of no confidence,then surely both Mrs. G and FM should resign.

  • rate this

    Comment number 3.

    Lets hope that PC don't cave in to the silly accusations that they are too close to the tories.

    M Drakeford (AM) said this morning that we should not expect the Minister to know of the content of emails between civil servants and Longley - why not?

    Another example of poor control and poor decision making in the WAG

  • rate this

    Comment number 4.

    So if the FoI is stating 'articulate the reason for change' and the Minister is saying it is an 'Independent Assessment'. The FoI has gone on the official minutes. So that means the Minister is economic with the truth. For a supposedly Party of the left to use another Party of the left to try and distract from the issue, is a bit disingenuous to say the least.


Comments 5 of 39



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