The concerns of the Medical Director of the NHS in England about the Welsh NHS have been released under the Freedom of Information Act.
A group of doctors have written to the new Health Minister warning that emergency units in Wales are 'at the point of meltdown'
The Chief Executive of the NHS in Wales has admitted that the service faces a £70m overspend but insists it will break even.
The Welsh Government says it's taking steps to speed up treatment for heart patients. It follows criticism of cardiac surgery waiting times from the Royal College of Surgeons and from the Prime Minister.
A Welsh Government spokesperson said,
– Welsh Government spokesperson
The quality of cardiac surgery in South Wales is very good as are the outcomes for patients.
However, we also know there is not enough capacity to meet current demand which is why we have already put in place a number of immediate steps to speed up treatment, including offering patients treatment at other cardiac centres and undertaking surgery at weekend. In the longer term we are further investing in increase capacity to Wales.
The medical director of the NHS in England has called for mortality rates and waiting times in Welsh hospitals to be investigated.
Sir Bruce Keogh wrote to Chris Jones, who runs the Welsh NHS, with his concerns.
His e-mail mentions six Welsh hospitals that he describes as having a 'persistently high mortality rate.'
The Welsh Government says the NHS in Wales is "open, transparent and has a higher level of scrutiny than any other part of the UK", adding that comparisons on A&E waiting times and mortality rates cannot be made between England and Wales as both sets of data are calculated differently.
The Welsh Government has issued a strongly-worded statement following concerns over mortality rates in Wales' hospitals.
A Welsh Government spokesperson said: “The NHS in Wales is open, transparent and has a higher level of scrutiny than any other part of the UK.
"Mortality rates in Wales are published on a quarterly basis and latest figures demonstrate clear improvement. If issues are identified, we work quickly to put them right and we do not hesitate to investigate as needed.
“To suggest that the Welsh NHS is covering up high death rates is therefore utterly ridiculous and completely without foundation.
"This allegation appears to be based entirely on an email from the National Medical Director for NHS England, Sir Bruce Keogh, to the Deputy Chief Medical Officer for Wales, Dr Chris Jones.
“In his email, Sir Bruce admits that there is insufficient data to conclude that an investigation should be carried out into any Welsh hospital.
"Moreover, Sir Bruce acknowledges that even where data did exist, he cannot vouch for its accuracy. The points raised by Sir Bruce were discussed with him at a meeting with Dr Chris Jones on December10th.
“The UK Government Statistical Service has also made it clear that comparisons on A & E waiting times and mortality rates cannot be made between England and Wales. Both sets of data are calculated differently."
The Conservatives are calling for an urgent response from the Welsh Government to the concerns about Welsh hospital death rates raised by English NHS medical director Sir Bruce Keogh.
– Leader of the Opposition Andrew RT Davies AM
The concerns raised in this email confirm our serious worries over standards of care in the NHS.Professor Keogh’s recommendation of ‘investigation’ into mortality rates should be immediately undertaken and no longer ignored. It is a matter of great regret that Carwyn Jones and Welsh Labour appear to have dismissed the advice provided by this leading expert.For the sake of future generations - Welsh Conservatives have long called for a Keogh-style inquiry into NHS standards of care.I sincerely hope that this will now take place.
Professor Keogh’s comments are further proof of extremely serious problems within the Welsh NHS.If this leading expert has offered assistance and raised concerns over a potential cover-up – he should not be ignored.I am staggered at reports that his correspondence has gone unanswered and I urge Labour’s First Minister to clarify these reports as soon as possible.
– Shadow Health Minister Darren Millar AM
Mortality rates in Wales are of huge concern and I have long raised questions over recent misleading statistics. NHS Wales has suffered catastrophically from Labour’s record-breaking budget cuts. Queuing ambulances, bed blocking, rocketing waiting lists and missed response times continue to throw the service into crisis.A Keogh-style inquiry would address serious concerns and see structures put in place to protect communities.
The Welsh Government has responded to the release of Sir Bruce Keogh's concerns about death rates in Welsh Hospitals, saying the medical director of the NHS in England doesn't have the information to support his suspicions.
As Sir Bruce makes clear, he does not have adequate data to form a view of whether there should be an investigation into the hospitals named in the email. Moreover, even when he does have data, he cannot vouch for its veracity. The National Statistics Authority has also recently concluded that it is not possible to compare mortality rates between England and Wales as they are measured differently.
– Welsh Government Spokesperson
Despite the frequent attempts to criticise the Welsh NHS, well over 90 per cent of people in Wales who actually use the NHS are happy with the care they receive. If legitimate concerns are raised about particular aspects of care at specific hospitals, we have acted quickly and ordered independent reviews to identify and resolve any issues.
Welsh Conservatives have called for a clampdown on spending on temporary workers in the NHS. The party's obtained figures under the Freedom of Information Act which show that health boards have spent more than £150m on locum and agency staff over the last three years.
Opposition leader Andrew RT Davies says it's a result of the repeated failure by the Welsh Government to recruit permanent staff.
– Andrew RT Davies, leader of the Opposition
While temporary staff may be a fact of life for most health boards - many of these figures will be rightly questioned by taxpayers.
It is more than clear that Carwyn Jones is failing to see through his promise to attract more permanent staff to Wales - and health boards and patients are suffering as a result.
The figures show wide variations in the amount spent on locum and agency staff from board to board with Betsi Cadwaladr the highest-spender and Powys the lowest. The totals from the last financial year (2012/13) are listed below:
- Abertawe Bro Morgannwg - £9.858m
- Aneurin Bevan - £4.058m
- Betsi Cadwaladr - £14.766m
- Cardiff & Vale - £8.274m (2013)
- Cwm Taf - £7.045m
- Hywel Dda - £5.872m
- Powys - £100,016
Today's report from the Institute of Fiscal Studies was funded by Welsh local government and the Welsh NHS Confederation, which represents the seven Health Boards and three NHS Trusts in Wales.
This useful piece of research firmly underlines the stark financial reality facing all public services in Wales, including the NHS. The seven Local Health Boards and three NHS Trusts in Wales are under no illusion that difficult choices have to be made to ensure that healthcare services are fit for purpose. Major change is needed and the people of Wales, NHS staff, partners and politicians must be prepared to accept new and different ways of delivering services, whilst taking more responsibility for how they use those services.
– Helen Birtwhistle, Director Welsh NHS Confederation
In addition, alongside other services, priorities for healthcare need to be reassessed so that Wales can create a responsive, joined-up approach which is citizen-centred. Only through this type of approach will public services be able to address the major challenges we all face, such as improving health outcomes, reducing health inequalities, giving children the best start in life and healthy ageing. Redesigning public services in a time of austerity requires boldness and ambition.
There is growing pressure tonight for a major inquiry into the care being offered at Welsh hospitals as yet more stories emerge of complaints from patients and their relatives.
In the latest incident, a Swansea man has called for investigations into the care offered for older people in Welsh hospitals, saying he's far from happy with the way his 87-year-old mother was treated.
The Welsh Government says there is 'a clear process for raising concerns in the health service without resorting to lengthy and expensive public inquiries at every opportunity.'
Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood has written to First Minister Carwyn Jones citing 'concerns' over standards of NHS care in Wales.
Her letter comes amidst growing calls for a major inquiry into the state of the Welsh NHS, similar to the high-profile Keogh inquiry carried out in England - the results of which were published earlier this month.
The Welsh Government said: 'We confirm a letter has been received. We will respond to it via the usual process in due course.'