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 1.

    'a lack of capacity during the winter'...cardiac surgery has not a lot to do with winter I'm afraid & everything to do with mismanagement. If it was why can Bristol manage to perform such ops during winter? MD can be freezingly furious but it was not political...and he should stop trying to hide behind politics. make nonsense data claims & get on with sorting it, if he was able to (yeah right).

  • rate this

    Comment number 4.

    I'm shocked...SHOCKED I tell you! Has no one protested to Bristol about the absence of Welsh speaking staff...this is the thin end of the wedge my friends; we demand the right to die waiting to be treated in our national tongue.

    Rise up Lazarus Cymraeg!

  • rate this

    Comment number 2.

    That is no comfort for the families of the estimated 150 patients who have died while waiting, according to RCS.

    Mismanagement rings out loud here Nick not apologists for WG.

  • 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.

  • 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


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