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Accident and Emergency Departments

Volume 591: debated on Wednesday 21 January 2015

2. What discussions he has had with Ministers of the Welsh Government on waiting times at A and E departments that serve patients from both sides of the England-Wales border. (907059)

My ministerial colleagues and I regularly raise concerns with the Welsh Government about the provision of health care along the England-Wales border and we are reviewing the current arrangements to ensure that they meet patients’ needs.

When my constituents in Montgomeryshire need to attend A and E, they are taken either to hospitals in England, where 87% of patients are seen within four hours, or to hospitals in Wales, where, shockingly, the figure is only 63%. Does my right hon. Friend agree that the Welsh Government and the UK Government should work together constructively to deliver reforms to ensure that only genuine emergencies attend A and E?

As ever, my hon. Friend makes a strong and constructive point. At this time of year, the NHS is facing severe pressures across the whole of the UK, and he is right to say that there is a disparity between the outcomes in Wales and those across the border in England. It is right that we should work together to address those disparities, but Welsh Government Ministers in Cardiff should be held to account for the decisions that have led to some of the problems.

Is the Secretary of State aware of the innovative medical centre at the end of Wind street in Swansea, which treats intoxicated people on the spot, freeing up ambulances, police and accident and emergency departments? Will he inform the Secretary of State for Health in England of the success of that venture, and suggest to him that similar facilities here could help to reduce the pressures caused by the removal of walk-in centres?

I am not familiar with that facility, although I am familiar with Wind street—from what I have read, not from what I have experienced. However, we will certainly look at that project in some detail and I will raise the matter with Health Ministers.

Since we last met, the Secretary of State has warned his Cabinet colleagues to mind their language when talking about the NHS in Wales. He said:

“I want them to take care how they speak about health services in Wales…I don’t want to hear anyone talking about a second-class NHS in Wales”.

Is he therefore disappointed that the Prime Minister has overruled him in continuing to bad-mouth the Welsh NHS?

I am surprised to hear this from the hon. Gentleman. We on this side of the House are not shutting down the debate on, and scrutiny of, the performance of the NHS. We stand on the side of patients in England and in Wales, and it is quite wrong of him to act as some kind of cheerleader for the Labour party by seeking to shut down the scrutiny and the debate on the Welsh NHS.

I take it from that answer that the Secretary of State is disappointed that the Prime Minister has overruled him. I believe that the Prime Minister has done that because talking about the Welsh NHS is his favourite way of distracting people’s attention from the failings of the NHS in England. Given that there is a crisis in hospitals near the border in Telford, in Shropshire, and in Cheltenham and Gloucester, where Welsh patients are traditionally sent, is it not now time for the Secretary of State to renew his efforts to get the PM to stop talking about Offa’s Dyke as though it were a line between life and death?

On the subject of health, there are two apologies that we need to hear from the Opposition today. The first is an apology from the hon. Gentleman on behalf of the Welsh Labour party for the way in which its Ministers in Cardiff have run the Welsh NHS into the ground. The second is from the Leader of the Opposition for his disgraceful and inappropriate suggestion that the NHS should be “weaponised”.