Hold the front page! MPs do battle over Welsh health

With parliament only having returned recently from its conference and summer recesses, MPs have not had time to exchange views on the NHS in Wales recently.

They soon made up for it. At question time today, Chester MP Stephen Mosley was the first Tory to complain about "strains" on healthcare in his constituency he says are caused by patients from Wales.

Jeremy Hunt may have said he doesn't want the NHS to be a political football, but he could sense an open goal. He told MPs that there was "absolutely intolerable pressure" on hospitals on the England-Wales border.

Mr Mosley had told Mr Hunt: "You will be aware of the strains that are placed on the budgets of the Countess of Chester NHS trust because of the need to treat thousands of patients every year who are fleeing the disastrous management of Labour in Wales.

"What action is he taking to ensure that hospitals on the English side of the border get a fair share or resources?"

Mr Hunt replied: "Well he is right to talk about that absolutely intolerable pressure on hospitals on the England-Wales border, so for every one English patient that is admitted for treatment in a Welsh hospital, five Welsh patients are admitted for treatment in an English hospital, and that creates huge pressure for them."

He added: "I have written to the Welsh health minister to say that the NHS is happy to treat more Welsh patients, but the trouble is they aren't prepared to pay for it, and that's why Welsh patients get a second-class health service."

Monmouth Tory David Davies joined in, criticising the Welsh government for "disgracefully trying to obfuscate and delay because they're afraid of what might be discovered" in allegedly resisting an OECD review of UK health systems. That prompted Mr Hunt to describe the state of the NHS in Wales as "perilous".

He added: "The frontbench opposite continually tell us that they're not prepared to condemn what's happening in Wales, that the health service in Wales is performing well, and yet here is the opportunity of an independent study by the OECD of all the different four NHS systems in the UK which Labour in Wales are trying to block and this does matter because the policies in Wales are what Labour wants to do in England."

This is disputed by the Welsh government. A spokesperson for Health Minister Mark Drakeford said: "This is politically-motivated nonsense. Wales is fully committed to an OECD quality review of our NHS and has not pulled out. The OECD visit has been postponed because it became clear that the UK government were putting party politics ahead of good scrutiny. If they continue to renege on the agreed terms of the review then an OECD quality review of Wales will be commissioned separately."

Plaid Cymru MP Hywel Williams pointed out that people from Wales had travelled for treatment in England under different UK governments. Mr Hunt told him: "As far as this side of the house is concerned we're very happy for people to travel anywhere in the United Kingdom. The concern I have in terms of health services in England is the pressure created because for every one patient that goes from England to Wales, five come from Wales to England".

Today's exchanges may have been influenced slightly by the Daily Mail's discovery of the NHS in Wales. (Mark Drakeford has tweeted his response to the Mail's reports in the style of Rafael Benitez addressing Sir Alex Ferguson).

Caerphilly MP Wayne David, a parliamentary aide to Ed Miliband, was so angered by the debate the Speaker suggested he obtain a sedative from a colleague. Unable to locate a sedative, Mr David brandished instead a copy of today's national newspaper of Wales.

"Have you seen today's Western Mail?" he asked Mr Hunt. "If you have seen it you will see that the Western Mail, which is not a Labour-supporting paper totally condemns the scare-mongering of the Conservative Party."

Mr Hunt did not reveal whether or not he was a Western Mail reader, but he said: "When I, as one of the first things I did in this job started speaking out about poor care in England, the front bench on that side said it was running down the NHS. The result of that is we are turning around failing hospitals, we have 5,000 more nurses on our wards. The NHS in England is getting safer and better and we want exactly the same thing for Wales."

The Daily Mail is promising more on "Labour's NHS shame" tomorrow. Not every Conservative MP thinks the criticism of the NHS from their side is sensible, but I wouldn't be surprised to hear the issue raised again during Prime Minister's Questions tomorrow.