UKIP Wales Leader and Assembly Member for Mid & West Wales Neil Hamilton weighed into the debate on leaked proposals for the closure of Withybush Hospital in Haverfordwest.
A leaked document shows hospital closures in seven out of nine options. Hywel Dda health board will be presenting its preferred options in the spring but said it needed a modern healthcare system, while “keeping hospitals for those who really need hospital care”.
In a topical questions session in the Senedd chamber to Cabinet Secretary for Health and Social Services Vaughan Gething, Neil Hamilton said:
“It must be regarded as a ridiculous proposal to close Withybush—even in contemplation in the medium term, let alone the short term. The health board should, when it produces the list of options for people to discuss, avoid causing unnecessary alarm and consternation by producing extreme proposals that are not going to be followed through.”
The UKIP Wales Leader also pointed to a lack of democracy in the health service, which inevitably leads to grossly unpopular decisions being made:
“Fundamentally, what we are seeing here is the lack of democratic decision taking in the health service. Health boards are not elected, community health councils are not elected. Everything, ultimately, is funnelled up to the health Secretary in the Assembly, and yes, we can attempt to hold the health Secretary to account in this Chamber, but our capacity to do that is, of course, limited by the structure of the Assembly and the party system within it. People on the ground feel that they have no real voice at all. Yes, ours is a voice, but is our voice being heard, and even if it’s heard, is it going to be listened to?”
UKIP Wales’ signature policy on health is to give voters control over who runs Wales’ health boards. The new elected health boards would be slimmed down to 11 members from the 23 currently on Hywel Dda’s board. This will put patients and their families at the heart of NHS decision making.
The NHS is a Soviet-style bureaucratic monolith. Taxpayers who pay for it and patients who use it have zero control over the service it provides.
Health Boards are all appointed by the Health Secretary in Cardiff, as are the Community Health Councils, which are supposed to be the patients’ voice. No surprise that anyone making a fuss about NHS failings is unlikely to be appointed or re-appointed.
The only power ordinary people have is to scream and shout when things go wrong. After 20 years of Labour Government in Cardiff, half the Health Boards in Wales, including Hywel Dda are in ‘special measures’ or ‘targeted intervention,’ with Health Minister Vaughan Gething taking even more decisions in Cardiff.
The Welsh Government says CHCs are ineffective as the voice of patients. He is right but his solution is dead wrong. He wants to reduce the seven existing CHCs to one. Instead of each health Board area having its own local CHC, he wants a single CHC for the whole of Wales. The mad Roman emperor, Caligula, said he wished the Roman people had only one neck, so that he could cut it. Vaughan Gething’s idea of making the NHS more accountable is to scrap the bodies nominally representing local people.
UKIP believes the NHS should be under democratic control, with elected Health Boards and Community Health Councils. We can then kick out those responsible for messing up local health services. The only party proposing local NHS democracy is UKIP. Both the Tories and Labour have failed us for decades on the NHS. Let’s bring about real change by giving power to the people. Only then will patients and families be put at the heart of NHS decision-making.