Normal service resumes

Even by the high-profile standards of some of the articles criticising the state of public services in Wales over the past year, the Daily Mail's blistering attack on the Welsh NHS seems to have gone up a notch.

What we've seen since is an operation by the Welsh government to deal with the main accusations.

It began with Carwyn Jones' monthly news conference in which he tried to palm it off as something you expect from time to time, before turning the attack onto the English NHS's record on finance and cancer treatment.

Then the health minister, Mark Drakeford, tweeted that he would not stand by and watch all the work of those in the NHS be denigrated.

And finally we had a statement of more than 2,000 words from the Welsh government responding to the main accusations by the paper.

We already knew much of what was in the Daily Mail, such as the call for an independent inquiry and bitter complaints from the relatives of people who have died.

Cancer treatment

But the real heart of the controversy is the hard data itself, which the Welsh government insists paints a different picture in sensitive areas like cancer treatment, while the paper in its coverage claims the opposite.

I won't go into the details of many of the claims now, but with so many figures flying around you can see why this is an issue people are going to be arguing about right up until the general election.

Critical articles about the health service in Wales in the London-based press have been a regular occurrence, but it had gone quiet as the focus shifted to Scotland.

Now the state of the Welsh NHS is front-page news again across the UK and it's likely to stay that way until the general election.

One final point: regular readers of my blog may be aware that I've often referred to the very different and twin-track issues that are dominating Welsh politics.

Highly charged and brutal

They are the constitution and the delivery of public services. One can be academic, at times vague and generally polite while the the other is detailed, highly charged and brutal.

This week we have a classic illustration as assembly members debate devolution, while at the same time the debate will rage about whether the Labour Welsh government is harming the NHS or whether the Welsh health service is being unfairly denigrated to undermine Ed Miliband's chances of becoming prime minister.

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