No matter what Keir Starmer says, Labour must take responsibility for the NHS crisis in Wales too – Plaid Cymru Leader Adam Price
Plaid Cymru Leader Adam Price writes for The Sunday Times on Labour's inability to take responsibility for the NHS in Wales.
"Will Rishi Sunak stop blaming others, take some responsibility and just admit that under his watch the NHS is in crisis, isn't it?"
These were the words bellowed by Labour leader Keir Starmer this week during PMQs as he (rightfully) challenged Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on the Tory government’s record on the NHS in England.
But of course, the very same can be said for the Labour party here in Wales.
Just this week, the Labour health minister refused to acknowledge that the Welsh NHS was in a crisis.
But you need only look at the bare facts – and the horrific experiences of patients and staff alike - to see how wrong that is.
One in five people in Wales are on a waiting list.
Family members are – quite literally - carrying elderly loved ones into A&E.
Workers are on strike – pushed to their limits by poor pay and working conditions.
It’s not just winter pressures. It’s not just the fall-out from the Coronavirus pandemic.
It’s a demoralised, underpaid and an undervalued workforce, a lack of investment in the social care sector and an over-reliance on the private sector to plug those gaps.
And it is the Labour party who are in government in Wales– and have been for the last 25 years.
They are responsible for the (mis)management of the NHS here.
They are responsible for cutting community hospitals.
They are responsible for spending an eye-watering £260m on private agency staff.
Yes, many pressures reach beyond Wales and it’s true that we have and continue to suffer from underfunding from successive Westminster governments. However, nobody can say that the Welsh Government wasn't warned over many years about this ticking time bomb. Nobody can deny that they have options to address this crisis.
We can all see that the Government's handling of this so far has effectively led us to where we are today.
Even prior to the strike action taking place by RCN members, the health minister refused to meet with the Welsh partnership forum, despite the forum's long history of productive social partnership – unnecessary brinkmanship, copied straight from the Tory playbook.
The recent proposal of a one-off unspecified payment, rejected by the unions as unsatisfactory, speaks to a longer pattern of a lack of coherent strategy around the workforce by the current Minister and her predecessors.
The Labour Government has become a broken record, only blaming the Westminster Government where they have powers they could use now to begin the process of healing our NHS.
Plaid Cymru are calling on the Welsh Government to bring forward a strategy to reduce the pressures facing the NHS with measures including resolving current pay disputes by awarding NHS workers in Wales an improved, substantive pay offer, publishing a clear delivery strategy with targets and full costing, for a new workforce plan, including steps to remove profit from agency working; and improving resilience at the point of interaction between health and care, taking the pressure off social care through greater NHS step-down capacity, in addition to expanding social care provision for the longer term.
They cannot keep doing the same thing and expecting waiting times to drastically improve – this needs new and innovative thinking to change the current trajectory that the NHS is on.
We should never accept the normalisation of the current state of the NHS. That means not accepting that it has to be like this. That means accepting that these are extraordinary times and that we need to step up to the plate, accept it for what it is, a crisis.
We need to have that admission that something different has to happen.
'Management is about doing things right; leadership is about doing the right things.'
We need the right things done now more than ever. That's the leadership people want to see from Welsh Government.
That means doing things differently, admitting there's a crisis, or this crisis will only deepen.