OVER the last few months, many of us in Wales have noticed the increasing UK Coalition Government attacks on the NHS in Wales. These political attacks detract from the hard work of doctors and nurses across Wales whose efforts we all rely on, and cynically attempt to create harmful anxiety and division.
The truth is that the NHS faces challenges across the UK - including here in Wales - and where there are valid suggestions of improvements to be made, we should of course look at them.
However, we should be bold and clear in defending our record on the NHS in Wales. The Welsh Government has invested in frontline NHS staff, increasing the number of hospital consultants and community nurses over the same period that numbers of community nurses have fallen in England.
Furthermore, we have taken a lead on mental health, scrapped a tax on ill health through prescription fees - a move later adopted in Scotland and Northern Ireland, and ensured that more cancer patients receive their treatment within their target time, with evidence suggesting that this approach is working – the levels of cancer deaths in Wales have fallen by 11 per cent since 2002.
In contrast, there has been a worrying trend towards back-door privatisation over the border, as seen in the recent announcement of a £1.2 billion outsourcing of cancer care in the English NHS to private companies.
July 2014 marks the 66th anniversary of the creation of the NHS under the post-war UK government, and the current UK Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt would do well to remember Aneurin Bevan’s words that “illness is neither an indulgence for which people have to pay, nor an offence for which they should be penalised, but a misfortune, the cost of which should be shared by the community.”
As the summer progresses, so does the redevelopment in Newport city centre. It’s great to see the progress on the Friars Walk development as the structure goes up, the Admiral staff moving into their new offices, and Newport market reinvigorated. Newport Council has really worked to make things happen and it’s heartening to see.
The Welsh Government has put funding in as well, and aims to help bring buildings back into use, both for residential and commercial use. Businesses, government, and the public all want Newport city centre to thrive, and the progress so far is encouraging.