The Minister's end of term report


That's the maths in the Assembly chamber and for the first time since Carwyn Jones formed his government (a budget aside) he's being reminded of how the figures add up.

The three opposition parties have come together to table a motion of no confidence in the Health Minister. That's significant. It's the first time they have co-operated at this level since the last election.

If the opposition have Lesley Griffiths in their cross hairs, there's no question who Labour are going after on this one. Plaid, they say, are the party with a 'supposedly left wing leader' who says one thing but who, when it comes down to it, does another. Plaid, the chink in the opposition armour. Plaid who've been told by their own senior members - let's take a flying leap here and assume they were talking about Dafydd Elis-Thomas AM and former AM and party chair Helen Mary Jones - that they're doing badly in elections precisely because they're seen to be too close to the Tories.

What do they do now say Labour? Line up with the Tories. Lessons of history, doomed to repeat, and so on.

In the meantime, what of Professor Marcus Longley's report - the one that's caused all the trouble over the past 48 hours?

Both the Health Minister and the First Minister accused the opposition yesterday of failing to appreciate the "context" of the emails.

That context is critical, but much of that context is still unclear, which is one reason why this row is dragging on.

We asked yesterday morning -and are still asking today - for a copy of the terms of reference that he was given. In broad brush strokes: was Professor Longley asked to use all his knowledge and expertise to sift through the evidence and come to a conclusion about whether change was needed in the NHS (with a tacit acceptance on all sides that the answer was pretty much bound to be yes) and suggest what those changes should be? That fits the bill of an independent report - just.

Or was he asked, as the government's Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Jewell suggested on Radio Wales this morning, to write an arm's length report which set out the clinical case for change and bring his expertise to bear to make the case for change and deliver the killer argument for the government, and the health boards' case?

The pre-amble to the Freedom of Information request, we revealed yesterday, says this:

"The report produced by Professor Longley is owned by the Health Boards and the NHS Confederation, and its purpose is to articulate the reasons why Health Boards need to change services, and to help Health Boards in engaging with their communities about the future of hospital services in Wales".

So, Professor Longley was commissioned to articulate the need to change services. In the light of that remit, wouldn't his his emails asking for "killer facts" seem reasonable enough?

But in the Written Statement published on the day his report was launched, this was how the Health Minister described the report to fellow Assembly Members:

"In January 2012, the NHS in Wales commissioned Professor Marcus Longley of the Welsh Institute for Health and Social Care to undertake an independent assessment of the evidence on NHS service change, in particular, looking at the best configuration of hospital services for Wales".

So, was he commissioned to independently assess the evidence onchange, or to articulate the case for change? Which one, ask the opposition parties, was it?

And if it was the former, why did the Health Minister claim it was the latter - and put an independent academic in a very difficult position when his emails to government officials came to light, emails which make a bit more sense if the brief was to argue a case, not weigh up the available evidence.

The end of term is in sight. The end to this row? No chance.