THE BLOG
04/10/2013 07:36 BST | Updated 23/01/2014 18:58 GMT

Labour Has Learned Nothing From Mid-Staffs

In the heart of Cardiff City centre, a statue of Aneurin "Nye" Bevan looks over passers-by. This Welsh man was the founder of the National Health Service and one of the Labour movement's most significant figures. What would Nye Bevan think 65 years after the NHS's creation if he knew that a Welsh Labour administration in his own country was cutting the Welsh NHS by over £800million a year, denying patients vital life-saving drugs and turning a blind eye to mortality rates.

It is a disservice to Bevan's creation and a public outrage to the people of Wales that Labour can be so complacent with our NHS.

What compounds this arrogance is that Labour has clearly learnt absolutely nothing from the Mid-Staffordshire debacle. Andy Burnham, the English Labour Minister - who was in charge at the time didn't mention it once in his conference speech in Brighton, and Carwyn Jones in Wales simply sweeps aside any inquiry saying simply that "it would be too expensive."

At the start of the summer, I called on the Welsh Labour Government to hold a Keogh-style inquiry in Wales and here's why.

Higher than expected mortality rates inevitably cause great worry and concern and it is now crucial that this issue is addressed at the highest level. The figures suggest that patients are more likely to die if they are treated in a Welsh hospital than an English hospital; and that larger hospitals have higher death rates than smaller hospitals - this calls into question the rationale behind Labour's unpopular NHS reorganisation.

An independent review by Sir Bruce Keogh into over a dozen more hospitals in England found that the culture at Mid-Staffs was not unique. Devolution simply cannot be used as a veil to cover divergence.

A Keogh-style inquiry would address the very real concerns of health boards, clinicians and families - and see structures put in place to improve patient care and ensure that it is always provided with dignity. None of us want to see a scandal on the scale of Mid Staffordshire and - if we act now - I believe it can be avoided in Wales. I want to see consensus on this, in the interests of staff, patients and their families. Communities the length and breadth of Wales deserve to have confidence that their relatives are getting the very best quality of care possible.

Right now, one in eight people in Wales is on an NHS waiting list. For the first time, the figure has topped 400,000. At the end of every month, hundreds of people have been waiting for their first appointment for more than 36 weeks. When they get it - and if treatment begins - a first class service is not always guaranteed. Despite all the efforts of those who work within our national treasure, performance has nosedived. An independent inquiry can help to change that - let's hope that we get one.

Almost every week, I stand up in the National Assembly for Wales and ask Carwyn Jones how he can allow the Welsh NHS to deteriorate on his watch, and every week he tells me about England. Frankly, it is shameful, complacent and condescending to Wales.

A cornerstone of politics in the UK is universal access to healthcare - devolved or not. In Wales, £5 a second is being stripped from our NHS. Last week at First Minister's Questions, when I pressed Carwyn Jones on why he wouldn't agree to a Keogh-style inquiry, I was told that it would cost "around £1 million, money that could be put into the NHS." What he didn't say is that in the past year he's spent £52 million nationalising Cardiff Airport, £3 million on desks and chairs for him and his Ministers in Cardiff Bay and £22,000 on a West-Wing type media room. How dare he tell patients across Wales that there isn't extra money to sort out unnecessary deaths in our system. How dare he!

Nye Bevan wrote in 1952 that, "The collective principle asserts that... no society can legitimately call itself civilised if a sick person is denied medical aid because of lack of means."

Next week, Carwyn Jones publishes his draft budget, perhaps over the weekend he might want to reflect on the words of Nye Bevan.