The Daily Mail’s on-going “exposé” of “Labour’s NHS shame” in Wales is a hilarious hodgepodge of hysterical and unsubstantiated mile-high headlines:
Elderly “victims”, suffering “horrifying neglect” in Welsh hospitals, are “denied food and water” for “long spells” and “told to ‘go to the toilet’ in their beds” (the Mail doesn’t do details).
Police are “probing … claims that staff used furniture to restrain dementia patients” (beds, chairs, tables, wardrobes? We are not told).
“Appalling cases of patients dying on waiting lists” (death by waiting lists? Appalling indeed!).
“Shocking stories” of “NHS refugees” (apparently numbering in the “tens of thousands”) in an annual “mass exodus” across the Wales/England border “to escape… from these waiting lists”.
MP David Davies (local Tory Rottweiler and Mail favourite) picks up the theme with the crazy assertion that the border is “a sort of Iron Curtain… people will do anything to get to the other side”.
Tories fan flames
By the end of last week, the Mail’s sham “exposé” was itself exposed as part of a dirty tricks Tory campaign to undermine positive public perceptions of Labour’s handling of the NHS.
The Tories were clearly fanning the flames with erroneous claims, allegations and indictments that the Mail regurgitated to keep the “investigation” going.
For instance, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt wrote a letter to Welsh Health Minister Mark Drakeford expressing “concern” that the Cardiff government had “cancelled” a visit by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) to carry out a comparative study of the health services in the four nations of the UK. The insinuation was that Labour had much to hide.
Dated 20 October, Mr Hunt’s letter became the Daily Mail Online story of the day – on 20 October – under the headline: “As Labour blocks international inquiry into crisis-hit Welsh NHS, thousands cross border for life-saving treatment.”
In his letter of response, Mr Drakeford revealed that he received Hunt’s letter, marked “Official-Sensitive”, only after it had been given to the London media. He called on Hunt to “adhere to normal conventions” on publishing independent reports and to “cease politicisation of the process”.
A spokesman for Mr Drakeford said: “Wales is fully committed to an OECD quality review of our NHS … and has not pulled out. The OECD visit has been postponed because it became clear that the UK Government were putting party politics ahead of good scrutiny”.
Labour fights back
Meanwhile, the Welsh government issued a detailed rebuttal of ten statements alleged by the Mail. For example, the Mail’s mad claim that “15,000 cancer patients … travel to England for cancer treatment denied to them at home” was invalidated with the fact that Wales treats only a total of 16,000 patients for cancer every year.
Ah facts! Not something the Mail is overly fond of.
The rebuttal makes the point too that: “The UK Government has cut the Welsh Government’s budget by £1·5bn (10%) since the Conservative-Lib Dem coalition came to power.” Nevertheless, “The Welsh Government continues to spend more than 2% more per head on health than is spent in England”.
In the opening salvo of last week’s damp squid “exposé”, the Mail is upfront about the motivation behind its joint dirty-tricks campaign: “Ed Miliband wants to place the running of the NHS at the heart of Labour’s election campaign next May… despite his party’s dismal record in Wales” (a “dismal record” being high levels of satisfaction among the Welsh people, according to the latest National Survey of Wales).
They are telling lies and skewing the facts because they know the public trusts Ed Miliband above other party leaders when it comes to the NHS.
When Labour left office in 2010, public satisfaction with the NHS was at its highest ever-recorded level of 70 per cent, having risen from 34 per cent in 1997 when Margaret Thatcher left office. It subsequently dropped to 58 per cent in 2011.