Open letter: Check the facts on the Welsh NHS

Dear Reader


UNISON continues to be amazed by some of the political claims about the NHS in Wales.  We would argue that the reality is somewhat different to some of the headlines we read. Indeed to listen to Tory Ministers like Jeremy Hunt people might think that the NHS in Wales had not read, and acted on, reports about patient care such as the review undertaken by Sir Robert Francis on the Mid Staffordshire NHS Trust.

But in reality we know that as soon as the report on the Mid Staffs crisis was published the Welsh Health Minister involved lots of organisations, including UNISON, in discussions about the way the NHS in Wales should change in response to these types of concerns. For over a year now we have been working with a very clear focus on helping to drive up quality and care in the Welsh NHS. We are doing this against the backdrop of huge cuts to the funding that Wales receives from the Tory led Government. But we are doing it because we have read the reports, thought hard about the lessons, and are using them to improve the NHS for patients in Wales.

People need to be aware that in England there is a lot of privatisation, mergers and acquisitions in the NHS– a different health system, with a language that more closely resembles America and not Bevan’s vision of the NHS that we still hold dear in Wales.  

Experience tells me, and evidence shows, that across the whole of the Welsh health team staff are delivering amazing results in our Welsh NHS every day of the week. People need to understand that, amongst our members who work in the NHS, there is a passionate desire to help patients and to deliver the right care. This is done in difficult circumstances and every person in Wales must also carry a responsibility to make the right choices about their health and the demands they place on our health system, especially in A+E.

Does the Welsh NHS get everything right? No, that would be a perverse claim in an organisation the size and complexity of our NHS. But our members are working hard to improve the patient experience, drive up quality and care and are constantly striving to meet the expectations of patients and their families. So in reality the story is different to that told by the Tory Health Minister. UNISON can only hope that people see through the political smoke and work together to help defend the Welsh NHS.  

Dawn Bowden – UNISON Cymru/Wales head of health