Election 2015 Wales

Election 2015: Parties clash over health 'dividing line'

A doctor holds a stethoscope Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption It might be devolved to Welsh ministers but health policy has been a prominent election issue

Clashes have taken place over the NHS between Labour and the Conservatives as general election campaigning continues.

Labour called health policy, which is devolved to Welsh ministers, a "real dividing line" between it and the Conservative Party.

Labour said it would use funds from a tax on expensive UK homes for 1,000 extra medical staff in the Welsh NHS.

But the Conservatives said Wales was the only part of the UK where health spending had been cut.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said: "Ed Miliband has no plan to grow our economy - that's why he will put the future of our NHS at risk, just as Labour have done in Wales."

Labour Welsh government Deputy Health Minister Vaughan Gething said: "The NHS is a real dividing line between Labour and the Tories this May.

"With Labour you get additional funding, more frontline staff and a promise that we'll never privatise our health service.

"The Tories are staying quiet because they've already begun the privatisation agenda in England, and they know that it's something they can use to tempt Nigel Farage into a post-election deal."

Image copyright Getty Images

Despite being a devolved issue, the NHS has featured prominently in the election campaign so far.

Earlier this week, Conservative Welsh Secretary Stephen Crabb said voters were not interested in whether the service was run from Cardiff or Westminster.

Darren Millar, the Conservative shadow health minister in the assembly, said: "Ed Miliband has held Wales up as an example of what he'd do and the facts speak for themselves - longer waiting times for tests and treatment, poorer ambulance service performance and higher hospital death rates.

"The truth is that Welsh Conservatives are the only political party consistently voting against cutting the health budget in Wales."

'Costed proposals'

Welsh Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate for Cardiff Central, Jenny Willott, said Conservative spending plans would damage vital public services.

"The Tories still haven't said where they would find the money the NHS needs, unlike the Lib Dems. With their plans to cut and keeping cutting the budget throughout the next five years, they will have to take the money from other areas, damaging our precious public services.

"Unless and until the Conservatives show how they plan to pay for their promises, the Liberal Democrats will remain the only party to make a real, credible commitment to funding the NHS.

"The Liberal Democrats are the only party who has committed to giving the NHS the £8bn it needs, which means millions of pounds extra for Wales' health service, and we have set out how we will pay for it."

Image copyright Thinkstock

Plaid Cymru candidate for Arfon, Hywel Williams, said the Westminster parties had used health as a political football for too long.

"This is doing nothing for the morale of hard-working staff and the patients who rely on our Welsh health service," he said.

'Bad spending decisions'

"Plaid Cymru is interested in solutions. We have unveiled detailed, costed proposals to train and recruit an additional 1,000 doctors in Wales, and outlined plans to integrate health and social care to address the growing problem of bed-blocking."

Nathan Gill, UKIP's MEP for Wales, said his party believed in "a National Health Service, not an International Health Service, unlike the other parties who seem happy for British taxpayers to pay for the healthcare of anyone who can afford the airfare to Heathrow".

He said: "The biggest issue facing the NHS is not a lack of funding, but bad spending decisions.

"Between paying GP's salaries up to £0.5m, paying thousands of pounds per day to private healthcare providers because of basic staff shortages, and paying six figure salaries to managers, it is no surprise the NHS is in crisis.

"Only UKIP is prepared to scrap PFI, cap senior salaries and reduce the numbers of managers."

More on this story