Wales politics

Lesley Griffiths blames 'posturing' in NHS emails row

The health minister has accused opponents who called for her resignation and who questioned the independence of a report into NHS changes of "posturing".

Emails show the report's academic author contacted senior civil servants while he was writing the document.

Health Minister Lesley Griffiths said she was not directly involved.

She also said the process around the preparation of the report was "irreproachable".

The report, written by health economist Professor Marcus Longley and published in May, said some services were in danger of "collapse".

Ministers had hailed the report, commissioned by the NHS Confederation, as evidence to support the case for potentially controversial changes to hospitals.

Emails have since emerged in which Prof Longley expresses concern the "evidence as presented does not seem to be as incisive as we might have hoped".

'Sharpen up'

In one he asks NHS Wales medical director Dr Chris Jones, who is also a senior Welsh government civil servant, for further evidence "to sharpen up the document and its impact in supporting the case for change".

Local health boards will soon publish proposals intended to put the NHS on a long-term footing, but they could mean some people having to travel further for some services.

Mrs Griffiths made an urgent statement to the assembly on Tuesday after a furious reaction from opposition parties.

"I simply cannot allow political posturing to block the path of good government being done.

"Be under no illusions, good government means taking the tough decisions on the NHS that enables it to be safe and sustainable in the future."

She added: "Some members have behaved utterly reprehensibly in their remarks earlier today.

"They are still attempting to divert attention from the clear evidence in the report."

Mrs Griffiths told AMs: "I had no direct involvement in the formation of this report."

She said there was no evidence that officials in her department sought to influence or change the report.

The emails show they were simply responding to Prof Longley's requests for data or advice on presenting the report.

"They prove, I believe, the process around the preparation of the report is irreproachable," she added.

Conservative shadow health minister Darren Millar has called the report a "dodgy dossier" and said the minister should stand down if she knew about the emails

Plaid Cymru AM Simon Thomas said the assembly needed to know whether it was misled by Mrs Griffiths when she presented the report as independent.

First Minister Carwyn Jones accused the Conservatives of trying to "wreck the academic reputation of Prof Marcus Longley".

During angry exchanges in the Senedd chamber, Welsh Liberal Democrat leader Kirsty Williams said: "How can the public have any confidence that any proposals that are brought forward are on the basis of independent and academic evidence?"

The first minister replied: "I say to her once again - produce the evidence that there has been collusion, or has she just not read the emails."

Prof Longley said: "The Case for Change document is an entirely independent piece of work carried out by myself in partnership with NHS Confederation Wales.

"The Welsh government is by definition the sole custodian of much of the data required in compiling this report, and any correspondence with them was to source this information.

"The report makes a strong and valid case for change in the way our NHS operates and was compiled without bias or influence."

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