Welsh NHS has 'nothing to hide', says health minister

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Media captionMark Drakeford says Wales has the UK's 'most scrutinised' health service

The Welsh NHS has "nothing to hide" about its performance, the health minister has said, as the political row over Welsh Labour's record continues.

Mark Drakeford told the BBC's Sunday Politics programme that Wales had the UK's "most scrutinised" health service.

The minister said the "big picture" in Wales was one of a "careful" and "compassionate" service.

He rejected calls for a "backward looking" inquiry, saying problem areas were investigated as they arose.

Mr Drakeford's comments follow a week of sustained criticism from the Conservatives and the Daily Mail newspaper on Labour's record running the health service in Wales.

'Slashed and burned'

The minister said health services were facing "real pressures" across the UK, claiming that in some areas - such as cancer care - Wales was doing better than England.

He pointed to the plan to invest an extra £425m in the Welsh NHS over the next two years, and defended the decision to protect spending on social services and social care as part of an "integrated" system.

"In England they have slashed and burned their way through social services departments - it's why their hospitals are chock full of people who ought to be discharged and there are no services for those people to go to," he said.

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Image caption Labour's running of the NHS in Wales has come under attack from the press and the Conservatives

Rejecting calls for an inquiry into the whole of the Welsh NHS, Mr Drakeford said that an independent report following spot checks of 70 hospital wards found the "big picture" of the Welsh NHS was that it was "careful, compassionate, and provides an excellent services for Welsh patients".

He also denied that Wales was refusing to co-operate with a planned survey of UK health services by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

Mr Drakeford said he was unwilling to "fall in" with the "deliberate distortions" of UK Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, who he again accused of trying to subvert the process by vowing to selectively quote from the eventual findings.

'Playing politics'

Earlier, the Welsh Tory leader Andrew RT Davies told Sunday Supplement on BBC Radio Wales that Labour's running of the NHS in Wales had left it with longer waiting lists and reduced access to treatments available elsewhere.

Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood accused the Conservatives and Labour of "playing politics" with the Welsh NHS.

Speaking of the attack on Labour's record in Wales, she said: "It's unforgiveable that the Tories would risk frightening patients and demoralising staff in this way."

Liberal Democrat AM Eluned Parrott repeated her call for an all-party commission on health, saying politicians "need to move beyond points scoring into putting it right".

Dame June Clark, professor emeritus at Swansea University and former president of the Royal College of Nursing, told the programme that political "carping" about the NHS was "frightening" patients.

She added that it was not helping the morale of staff who were "working their socks off" in both England and Wales, which each had their problems.

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