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Last Updated: Friday, 25 June, 2004, 18:06 GMT 19:06 UK
New attack on Welsh NHS
Dr Tony Calland
Dr Calland said changes in the Welsh NHS were needed
The Welsh Assembly Government is having to fend off a further attack on its handling of the NHS.

On Friday, Dr Tony Calland, chair of the British Medical Association (BMA) Welsh council, compared Welsh and English waiting lists and warned that people's patience was running out.

Dr Calland's comments followed an attack from independent health analyst Roy Lilley, who branded the Welsh NHS "a basket case" and argued that powers for health should return to Westminster.

Welsh Health Minister Jane Hutt, however, insisted improvements were being made.

On Thursday, Mr Lilley told BBC Wales that the Welsh NHS had some of the longest waiting lists in the UK and shortages of GPs, consultants and nurses.

"I think there's a good case for taking the NHS away from the assembly - at the moment, the NHS in Wales doesn't have a good reputation," Mr Lilley said.

Speaking on Friday, Dr Tony Calland, who treats patients from England and Wales because his Trellech surgery is close to the border, said there were definitely shorter waiting lists in England than in Wales.

Surgery (generic)
The NHS in Wales is short of key staff, it is claimed

"And you can usually get patients through the diagnostic procedures in hospital much quicker as well," he said.

Dr Calland said that a 2003 report urging the service to modernise had had little impact so far, despite "a great amount of talk" in the Welsh assembly.

"At the front line, in both hospitals and general practices, not much has changed, and we need a change.

"The BMA has tried to be very supportive of the assembly in its early years, but unless certain things happen, the patience of patients and health professionals will be sorely tested."

But Dr Calland disagreed with Mr Lilley's description of the Welsh NHS as "a basket case", and said that accusation was "grotesquely unfair".

Target points

Welsh Health Minister Jane Hutt told BBC Radio Wales that there had been improvements, and she disputed Mr Lilley's figures.

"(On waiting lists) we've got a good record on cardiac," she said.

"We are saying to people if they are waiting an unacceptably long time over target points, then they will be offered treatment at another hospital."

Jane Hutt
Health Minister Jane Hutt said she was committed to cutting waiting lists

When asked whether she would pledge that waiting list targets in Wales would match those announced for England, Ms Hutt said that she was committed to reducing waits for treatment.

"One thing we are doing in Wales which is different from England is that people should have access to someone in the primary care team (such as GPs) within 24 hours.

"In England, they are saying 48 hours to see their GP - that is progress.

Trade union leader Dave Galligan, the head of health for Unison in Wales, backed Jane Hutt, saying she was doing as good a job as anyone.

"The NHS is a wonderful institution, and it is only bad news that make the headlines - it is so demoralising," he said.

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