MP warns NHS record could cost Welsh powers support

It was supposed to be a debate about a scandal in the English NHS.

But it took the (English) Health Secretary less than 10 minutes yesterday before he switched focus from the Francis Report on events at the Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust to healthcare standards in Wales.

Mr Hunt justified his approach by telling MPs: "Although health is a devolved issue, unfortunately failures in care in Wales are now having a direct impact on NHS services in England, with a 10% rise since 2010 in the number of Welsh patients using English A and E departments, leading to very real additional pressure on border town hospitals.

"What is causing that pressure? Dr Dai Samuel of the Welsh BMA describes standards of care in Wales as follows: 'It's pretty horiffic....the level of care being given to patients is compromised....substandard we are seeing a miniature Mid Staffs every day'."

Mr Hunt said NHS England medical director Sir Bruce Keogh and the president of the Royal College of Surgeons, Professor Norman Williams, had both "written to the Welsh authorities calling for action, only to be completely ignored".

His Labour shadow, Andy Burnham, responded: "There are, of course, important issues that the Welsh assembly needs to address, but voters in England might appreciate it if he spent a bit more time sorting out problems here rather than pointing the finger over there."

Forest of Dean Tory MP Mark Harper intervened: "The NHS in Wales is relevant. Thousands of constituents in England have to use the NHS in Wales - the point I made to the secretary of state - because of the Labour Party's ill-thought-out devolution settlement."

The debate reached the ears of Welsh Health Minister Mark Drakeford. A spokesman for him said: "Jeremy Hunt was today responding to a debate following an unprecedented scandal that occurred in the English NHS. The fact that he wants to drag the Welsh NHS into that debate is shameful. Last week the BMA said the notion that Welsh hospitals were worse than those in England was a 'wicked slander'. Sadly that wicked slander has been repeated again today on the floor of the House of Commons.

"While the Francis Inquiry focused solely on failings in care in England; far from stopping at the border much has happened in Wales as a result of its findings. This includes investing £10m in more nurses to care for patients, and a review of the current complaints procedures."

It is fair to point out that it wasn't just a Conservative secretary of state who decided to focus on Wales during the debate. Cynon Valley Labour MP Ann Clwyd hinted she wouldn't support further devolution to Wales because of the Welsh government's performance on the NHS.

She said: "Now, I won't be popular for saying this, but surely this House will be asked to give more powers to Wales.

"Before we give ground to any more powers, and I was a very keen pro-devolutionist in two campaigns, but I will think very carefully before giving any more powers away from this place to the devolved assemblies."

You can read the debate here.