Wales politics

David Cameron defends attacks on standards in Welsh NHS

David Cameron
Image caption David Cameron and Jeremy Hunt have made repeated attacks on the performance of the Welsh NHS

Prime Minister David Cameron says not enough has been done to "challenge" standards in Welsh public services.

In an interview with the Western Mail he said it was appropriate for him to criticise the Welsh government's performance in health and education.

Mr Cameron rejected suggestions that criticisms of the Welsh NHS were insulting to health staff.

Welsh ministers said the comments were "wrong" but "low-key" compared to his "slightly hysterical" previous attacks.

In April, the prime minister told the Welsh Conservative conference it was a "national scandal" that failings in the Welsh NHS had made Offa's Dyke a "line between life and death".

There have also been bitter exchanges between Tory UK ministers and the Labour Welsh government over the NHS in recent weeks.

"The Welsh leaders are able to criticise our performance. I believe that if we think they are falling short we should be able to criticise their performance," Mr Cameron told the paper on Friday.

He suggested issues facing the NHS and education in Wales were linked because "not enough has been done to really challenge and raise the performance of some of these public services".

"This is in support of hard-working Welsh doctors and Welsh nurses who are working very hard but I think they are being let down by their politicians, and the fact that I've been able to bring about a debate in Wales about the state of the NHS and the fact that it needs reform I think is all to the good.

"But it's not insulting the people of Wales, it's not insulting Welsh doctors and nurses - it's praising them but saying I think their politicians should think again."

'Error'

Labour's running of the Welsh NHS has come under strong attack from Conservatives, with UK Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt claiming patients in Wales were getting a "second-class" service.

Welsh Health Minister Mark Drakeford has said the NHS in Wales has "nothing to hide" about its performance and the "big picture" in Wales was one of a "careful" and "compassionate" service.

Responding to Mr Cameron's latest comments, a spokesman for First Minster Carwyn Jones said: "These criticisms, though wrong, are notably low-key when you compare them to the slightly hysterical comments we've heard from the prime minister in the past.

"Perhaps the Tories are learning from the error of their ways.

"As for praising NHS staff in Wales? They will make their own judgements about that following the attacks in recent weeks."

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