Wales politics

Border crossings for Welsh heart patients

If you're waiting for heart surgery in south Wales, I don't suppose you're going to be that bothered about where that surgery eventually takes place.

In which case, Wednesday's confirmation from the Welsh government that three centres are being used in England could be very welcome.

After all, it's designed to speed up waiting times and deal with a lack of capacity during the winter.

But the problem again is how stories like this pose questions about the resilience of the Welsh NHS.

The context here is important on two levels.

Firstly, the context of the past 24 hours after the Royal College of Surgeons wrote to the Health Inspectorate Wales asking what action had been taken six months after it warned that patient safety was being put at risk during waits for heart operations in Cardiff and Swansea.

Accusations flying

And, of course, there's the wider context of political pressure on the Welsh government, typified by David Cameron's call for ministers to "get their act together".

We still haven't heard from the most senior doctor in England, Sir Bruce Keogh, after an email exchange with his Welsh counterpart, Chris Jones, was published last week in which he expressed concern at death rates in some Welsh hospitals.

The accusations were flying, including one that there had been some kind of cover-up.

The Welsh government said that was "utterly ridiculous" and that Sir Bruce and Chris Jones had met after the email exchange.

But we don't know whether Sir Bruce's concerns have been allayed.

In the meantime, there was an angry response from Health Minister Mark Drakeford who said he was "coldly furious" at what he considered to be a political attempt to drag the Welsh NHS through the mud.

The problem Mr Drakeford has is that while last week's email exchange and Wednesday's developments are being used by the Welsh government's political opponents, they originate from non-political medical sources like Sir Bruce Keogh and the Royal College of Surgeons.