Wales politics

Welsh political leaders clash over health service in debate

Welsh political leaders at BBC Radio 4's Any Questions
Image caption Mark Reckless, Andrew RT Davies, Carwyn Jones, Kirsty Williams and Leanne Wood

Welsh political leaders have clashed over the running of the health service in a live radio debate.

First Minister Carwyn Jones said changes to maternity services in west Wales were made on medical advice, but the Conservative, Welsh Liberal Democrat and Plaid Cymru party leaders criticised the move.

Meanwhile, UKIP's Mark Reckless said his party would not privatise the NHS.

The exchanges came as part of BBC Radio 4's Any Questions on Friday evening.

Debate over maternity services follow the reorganisation in Pembrokeshire and Carmarthenshire, with the unit in Carmarthen now handling more births.

The changes have previously provoked a series of local protests.

Dispute

Speaking during the debate, broadcast from Pembroke Dock, Conservative leader Andrew RT Davies suggested there could be a "tragedy" as a result of the changes.

"I do believe there is a risk there could be a tragedy through the reconfiguration - it's about whether you're committed to local services in district general hospitals, and that's what we've been championing in the assembly since 2011," he said.

The first minister said the changes had been made on medical advice from a series of experts.

"They all said it should be centralised in Carmarthen," he said.

After one audience member shouted: "They were wrong, weren't they?", Mr Jones said an expert review concluded in 2014 it would make "no clinical sense" to reverse the decision.

Welsh Lib Dem leader Kirsty Williams said services in Carmarthen were now over-subscribed, and accused Mr Jones of failing to listen to local concerns.

"We need a newer focus on how we can deliver services," she said.

Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood said Wales was suffering from a shortage of doctors, and that her party had published proposals to recruit and retain more medics.

Pressed on suggestions UKIP leader Nigel Farage had said privatisation was an option for the NHS, Mr Reckless said: "It's completely wrong.

"We do not support privatisation of the health service, we believe it should be free at the point of delivery."

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