The UK government's Health and Social Care Secretary Steve Barclay has invited Welsh and Scottish ministers for talks on how the UK can work together to tackle NHS waiting lists. It comes after the Welsh Government has previously said that long waiting lists in Wales are declining every month.
Should the Welsh Government strike a deal, patients in Wales could access NHS services in England. The Conservative Welsh secretary David TC Davies has said that patients in Wales have a 'right' to access care in England, whilst the offer has been 'warmly welcomed' by James Evans MS.
“Today’s offer from the UK government is very warmly welcomed and gives the 700,000 patients currently on a waiting list of one year or more hope in being able to access treatment sooner." Mr Evans said. "However, this should also be a stark warning to the Welsh electorate on how untenable Welsh Labour are as a governing party. They have failed to deliver on one of the most important policy aspects of devolved governance and in turn, put people’s lives at risk.
“While the First Minister has announced that he will stand down at the next election, Wales is a like a deer caught in the headlights of a Welsh Labour-induced car crash. Wales needs a governing party to wipe the slate clean and take responsibility for the direction of travel this country is headed in. Along with my colleagues on the Welsh Conservative bench, we will strive to be that party driving an ambitious program of reform that will strengthen our public services and the system of democratic governance in Wales. Welsh Labour are slowly but surely showing us why they are no longer fit to be in government.”
A Welsh Government spokesperson said: “Long waiting times are falling every month in Wales and have more than halved in the past year. Overall waiting times in England have risen by over 12 per cent in England, compared to 3.6 per cent in Wales and we continue to invest record amounts in our health service to continue to improve all aspects of healthcare.”
They also say that Wales includes more referrals in its waiting times statistics than England does and that Wales has outperformed England in major emergency department performance in nine out of the last ten months.
NHS services across the UK are a devolved matter, but Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has made cutting waiting lists a priority across the UK. Although approaches taken across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland share many common features, significant variations in outcomes exist. In Wales, more than 73,000 people are waiting over 77 weeks for treatment, and at least 21,600 people are waiting over 78 weeks for an outpatient, day case or inpatient appointment in Scotland. In England, waiting times for patients over 78 weeks have been virtually eliminated.
The UK government's Health and Social Care Secretary Steve Barclay said: "I hugely value being able to share knowledge and experiences on the joint challenges facing our healthcare systems. I want to support collaboration between our nations to share best practices, improve transparency and provide better accountability for patients. This will help to ensure we are joined up when it comes to cutting waiting lists - one of the government’s top 5 priorities - and will allow us to better work together to improve performance and get patients seen more quickly."