English hospitals 'under pressure' from Wales, claims Hunt
Pressure is increasing on hospital A&E departments in England because of care failures in Wales, the health secretary has said, in a thinly veiled attack on Labour-controlled authorities across the border.
Jeremy Hunt told MPs there had been a direct impact on border town hospitals after a 10% rise in Welsh patients using services in England since 2010.
He claimed health authorities in Wales acted as if the lessons of the inquiry into the Mid Staffordshire tragedy, in which hundreds more people died than expected, “stop at the border”.
The Cabinet member, in a focus on the devolved responsibility of Labour-controlled Wales, renewed calls for an independent examination of mortality rates in the country.
Mr Hunt was speaking as the Commons debated the 12 months since the Francis report into Mid Staffordshire.
He conceded not all hospitals in England were being completely open and honest following recommendations in the Francis report, citing allegations that had surfaced recently in the media.
Assessing the last 12 months, the health secretary said the chief inspector of hospitals, Professor Sir Mike Richards, had completed inspections of 18 trusts with 19 more taking place.
More than 1,600 applications have been received for a 50-place fast-track leadership programme, while ministers and senior Department of Health officials have spent more than 1,300 days “working on the frontline”, Mr Hunt added.
“Unfortunately failures in care in Wales are now having a direct impact on NHS services in England”
Suggesting MPs follow the lead of whistleblowers within the NHS and turning to Wales, he said: “Too often we have accepted the convenient explanation that individual cases of poor care were the exception when in our hearts we know the problem was more widespread.
“We need to be champions for change in our communities just as the Mid Staffs campaigners were champions for change in theirs. And nowhere is this more the case than in Wales.
“Although health is a devolved issue, unfortunately failures in care in Wales are now having a direct impact on NHS services in England, with a 10% rise since 2010 in the number of Welsh patients using English A&E departments leading to very real additional pressure on border town hospitals.
“And what is causing that pressure? Dr Dai Samuel of the Welsh BMA describes standards of care in Wales as follows, he says: ‘It’s pretty horrific, the level of care being given to patients is compromised, sub-standard - we are seeing a miniature Mid Staffs every day’.
“If this creates pressure in England, it is a tragedy for Wales”
“Both NHS England medical director, Professor Sir Bruce Keogh, and president of the Royal College of Surgeons, Professor Norman Williams, have written to the Welsh authorities calling for action only to be completely ignored.”
Mr Hunt said Professor Williams had referred to an analysis of NHS data, which he said highlighted that waiting lists for elective cardiac surgery in south Wales were “higher than appropriate”.
He added that expert reports suggested 152 patients had died in the past five years on the waiting lists.
Mr Hunt went on: “If this creates pressure in England, it is a tragedy for Wales. But still the authorities there continue to act as if the lessons of Mid Staffs stop at the border.”