Welsh Labour leadership: ex-health ministers back Drakeford

Four former Welsh Health ministers have given their public backing to the frontrunner in the contest to succeed Carwyn Jones as Labour leader in Wales.

The former ministers have published an open letter saying that 'the future of the NHS will be best served' by having Mark Drakeford - himself a former Health minister - in charge as First Minister.

He already has the public support of 12 of his fellow AMs. The only other likely candidate with confirmed support is Health Secretary Vaughan Gething who has promised nominations of four AMs.

Eluned Morgan and Huw Irranca-Davies have said they hope to stand but they have not received any public endorsements yet.

The text of the letter from the four former health ministers - Jane Hutt, Lesley Griffiths, Brian Gibbons and Edwina Hart - is below:

As we celebrate the 70th anniversary of the NHS this month we are writing to express our unanimous view that the future of this vital service in Wales will be best served by a future First Minister who is both principled and experienced.

The NHS will inevitably continue to evolve and we know that Mark Drakeford will grasp new opportunities to embed Nye Bevan’s vision of the NHS in Wales, linking health to social care and housing.

As former health secretaries ourselves, we know Mark is committed to maintaining a service which is publicly funded, free at the point of delivery and publicly delivered. He is committed to ensuring that it is free from the creeping privatisation and influence of market forces ideology that we see over the border in England.

We are proud of Welsh Labour’s record on the NHS – we’ve delivered record numbers of NHS staff and Mark ensured that they now receive the Real Living Wage.

He is steadfast in his commitment to tackling health inequalities, safeguarding free prescriptions and giving a strong voice to patients in the Welsh NHS.

During his time as Cabinet Secretary for Finance, Mark has helped protect the NHS in Wales from some of the damage imposed on us by the UK Government’s dogmatic policy of austerity. Welsh Labour has sustained investment in NHS Wales – despite savage cuts to the Welsh budget by the Tories.

With his vital experience in Finance, as well as a former Health Secretary, Mark has the right combination of skills to become the next First Minister that Wales – and the NHS in Wales – needs.

The NHS will need to grow and adapt to technological and demographic change but it remains at the centre of the life of our nation as a uniquely British creation.

Mark believes in being, in his words, a “bread and butter” First Minister, if elected, and there is no more important bread and butter issue for the people of Wales than their health service.

With Mark Drakeford at the helm in the role of First Minister, we believe he will ensure that the NHS in Wales will continue to be a uniquely powerful engine of social justice for Wales.

– Jane Hutt, Lesley Griffiths, Brian Gibbons, Edwina Hart