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.

Nick Servini Article written by Nick Servini Nick Servini Political editor, Wales

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  • rate this

    Comment number 30.

    #29 Cont. But I do object to a business model where entrepreneurs take on business, pocket the profits from the successful cases and pass on any problems - without fee - to the public sector.
    #28 Let me ask you a question ? How many doctors, nurses, clinical scientists did BMI train in say the last 5 years ? Do they pay these staff pensions ? Or do they rely on the public sector doing that ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 29.

    2 8 "I asked the question of you earlier, "how many exactly, in any year, cause such an impact on our NHS".
    I don't have figures, but I do know, personally, of scheduled operations being cancelled because the intensive-care bed required to be available had been taken, as an emergency, by a post-surgical patient from a private hospital.
    I don't dispute the patient's right to a bed. TBC

  • rate this

    Comment number 28.

    ... #27, "Something like the building trade levy might be appropriate."

    I asked the question of you earlier, "how many exactly, in any year, cause such an impact on our NHS".

    And those that choose "private health care" also pay for the NHS in full through taxation (foreign excepted), so occasionally there's a problem ...

    ... does it make a difference ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 27.

    #25 They don't cherry pick ? Get cancer and see how long your insurance cover lasts. Check out what happens if a simple operation becomes less simple. Does your local BMI hospital have a high dependency unit ? Intensive care ? No ? Then complications go to the NHS. Has it ever trained any clinical staff ? Something like the building trade levy might be appropriate.

  • rate this

    Comment number 26.

    or is it Ieuan or Woodsey, similar arguments, grammar etc and use of stats to get to your POV, not independent stats.

  • rate this

    Comment number 25.


    That's rubbish - check out Nuffield, Ramsay, and BMI groups of private hospitals to name but 3.

    They don't cherry pick - they tend to specialise in what they know they can sell. Increasingly they are able to sell their services to NHS Trusts because they do a good job often cheaper than NHS theatres can do it themselves.

    Low risk - cardiac, spinal, neuro, orthopaedic surgeries....Get real!

  • rate this

    Comment number 24.

    # 21 - I have no idea if Westminster fiddled the books - if they did then could I suggest that the WAG did like wise.
    Most surveys reveal little and achieve even less. What is clear is that the WAG are failing to meet their own targets in key health areas. I am sure that health staff are doing their best in difficult circumstance. All of us should be concerned at the failings of the WAG

  • rate this

    Comment number 23.

    ... #21, it was the "British Social Attitudes Survey" that provided the very low figures, "the annual patient survey" for NHS England was similar to Wales, quite different ......

  • rate this

    Comment number 22.

    Could you ask your colleague, DC, what has happened to the comments on the last three threads on his site ?
    As said before, removing comments without any comment from the BBC is Orwellian in that it proves he who controls the present, controls the past.
    There are no comments, there never were any comments. All love Big Carwyn.

  • Comment number 21.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 20.

    Satisfaction surveys are subjective. Death rates, ambulance waiting times, cardiac surgery delays are objective. If the people of Wales (and England) haven't experienced a better service (private or overseas), then they have little to compare it to. Combined with the misnomer that the NHS is 'free', satisfaction surveys mean nothing.

  • rate this

    Comment number 19.

    15 and 17 gweriniaeth - you quote two different surveys. One by the WAG revealing your favourable stats. The second by an independent organisation. If however you read the survey for the Westminster Gov then you will find that (by some strange coincidence) that the Westminster and WAG surveys arrive at the same conclusions and figures. There are lies d.. lies and stats

  • rate this

    Comment number 18.

    Most people are not aware that from last October you can use the EU's Cross Border Directive to get treatments in any EU country, that includes England.Scotland, Ireland. There are conditions but when you apply through your local Trust things will move in your favour.

  • Comment number 17.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 16.

    ... #15, we might ask the families of patients failed by the NHS Wales, 3% and 5% represent thousands of unhappy patients, myself, I'm a happy patient, but if your figures are correct there are 30,000+ GP and 50,000+ Hospital patients unhappy.

    So whether our satisfaction is higher than the European average, that would be cold comfort to the heart patient who .... didn't make it !

  • Comment number 15.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 14.

    ... #12, the number of procedures' requiring NHS intensive care, how many ?

    From 5th July 1948 our NHS has nurtured a symbiotic relationship with private health care, and long may it continue, from it we gain

    .. new drugs
    .. new science
    .. new equipment

    ... and I'm sure that NHS Wales would improve if it could remove the socialist blinkers, New Labour did ...

  • rate this

    Comment number 13.

    9 Boxer I think that both Cameron and I would agree with you. The problems in the Welsh NHS are for the people of Wales. It is however inconceivable that politicians will not comment and compare performance across devolved areas.
    I did not see any comment from you when CJ attacked the so called privatisation of the English NHS. Or is it one rule for the WAG and another rule for Westminster

  • rate this

    Comment number 12.

    " Part of the resilience in the English NHS comes from the private sector. "
    There isn't a private sector in UK health care. What there is comprises a parasitical group who cherry pick sectors that avoid risk, but are only profitable by diverting NHS resources.
    Take a private op. Surgeon, anaesthetists, nurses - NHS trained. Post-op - NHS registrar moonlighting. Goes wrong_ NHS intensive care

  • rate this

    Comment number 11.

    Part of the resilience in the English NHS comes from the private sector.

    The WAG is ideologically opposed to using this form of capacity in Wales but has patently failed to incorporate sufficient redundancy into the Welsh system to cover peaks in demand.

    Add in the growing recruitment problems and an apparent inability to move beyond a 'more of the same' mindset then we are in deep trouble.


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